While all players look forward to the regular season, it might be difficult to top how eager Morgan State wide receiver Thomas Martin is to play.
The senior was one of several Bears who were deemed academically ineligible after they were not properly certified by the university. So instead of trying to help last year's team retain the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship it had captured in 2014, Martin was relegated to onlooker status for the entire campaign.
"It was real tough," Martin said recently. "I took it kind of hard, but my coaches told me just to build on it because I was coming back next year. So I just went hard in the classroom and worked hard off the field so that I could help the team any way that I could. It paid off because I didn't drop balls like some guys would have. I just took it as a learning experience."
So how anxious is he to suit up for his first game since catching four passes in Morgan State's Football Championship Subdivision playoff loss at Richmond in 2014?
"It's really high because there's a big sense of urgency," he said. "Our first few games are really big, and on top of that, it's my last year. So I really feel like we need everything we can get as soon as possible."
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Martin finished 2014 with 22 receptions for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He did not practice Wednesday because of an undisclosed injury, but is a critical piece in a Morgan State receiving corps that graduated leading receiver Andrew King (44 catches for 489 yards and three scores last season).
Martin is aiming to become the program's first 1,000-yard receiver since Kelvin Dickens had 1,019 yards and seven touchdowns on 47 receptions in 2004. He brings a wealth of experience, but interim head coach Fred Farrier said Martin's biggest asset is big-play capability.
"Thomas is super-explosive, and we can't wait to get him out there," Farrier said after Wednesday's practice. "In the spring game, I think he caught six or seven passes for over 200 yards and three touchdowns. Just that explosiveness in him and being able to stretch the field and win some one-on-one battles and catch a ball and make a guy miss and get yards after the catch and the toughness he brings really sets the tone for that whole group.
"Being able to have him back makes our whole offense better. We want to make sure that he's got every opportunity to play healthy, to where he can feel 100 percent when he gets out there. It'll be our job to be creative and find ways to get him the ball."