He used to knock guys on their asses. That’s what Scott Martin told me the other day. He was pushing a glop of pizza fries around his plate at the old fashioned soda fountain at historic Huntridge Drug Store on East Charleston.
Actually, I was the one who said it first. He just repeated it.
Martin had played soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He was a sweeper. The last line of defense before the goalkeeper. Not many soccer teams play with a sweeper anymore.
It is the sweeper’s job to knock Lionel Messi, and the other great goal snipers, on their keisters. It’s difficult to knock Lionel Messi on his keister. Perhaps that is why few teams defend the goal with a sweeper. The sweeper usually is a hard man. Physically hard. Mentally hard.
Twenty years ago, when he was 35, Scott Martin was the women’s soccer coach at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He was playing pickup soccer at a Nike coaching clinic in Chicago. He had made a lot of contacts at the clinic. Perhaps these contacts would help him land a D-I coaching job. That was his dream.
Then Martin started feeling queasy on the soccer pitch.
Later that night, he became violently sick to his stomach. Heat exhaustion. That’s what they said in the emergency room. IV fluids and Tylenol should take care of it.
Fluids and painkillers did not take care of it.
Scott Martin would spend a month in a medically induced coma. A virulent virus had invaded his bloodstream. A virulent flesh-eating virus. Yes, it sounds gross, something you might see in the movies, or on “The Outer Limits” on television.
Group A Streptococcus, in its most virulent form, is gross. Usually, it just causes strep throat. It can cause scarlet fever and rheumatic fever. The kind Scott Martin had ate at his flesh.
He woke up without hands, without feet. They were amputated while he slept.
He had been awake just long enough to give his consent. He doesn’t remember this. Doesn’t matter, the doctors said. Had his hands and feet not been amputated, the virus would have spread to vital organs and he would have died.
How would he play soccer without feet? How would he coach his team? This was not how his life was supposed to go.
Scott Martin cried. He endured bouts of depression.
Eventually, he began to think like a sweeper again.
He got physically tough. He got mentally tough. He got well. He got married, to a physician. They started a family. A big family.
Scott and his wife, Ellen, adopted five children: Nadia and Danny were from Romania; Andy, Kalista and Lauren from Ethiopia. The Martins go to Disneyland, on weekend getaways to Utah or New Mexico or wherever families go. Scott Martin drives the kids to school and picks them up again in the afternoon.
Drive a car? Without hands? Yes. Scott can do almost anything with his prosthetic hands, except maybe snap his fingers. But then I didn’t ask.
He has free time between the drop-offs and the pickups. So Scott Martin wrote a book after moving the family to Las Vegas. When I met him last summer, he almost was finished with his memoir and looking for an editor. He found one, a young woman from Northern California named Coryanne Hicks.
“Moving Forward in Reverse: An Inspirational Memoir About the Positive Aspects of Being Human” is available through Amazon.com.
Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man is pictured on the cover. That was by design. The Vitruvian Man stands naked, exposed. There were a lot of times during his recovery that Scott Martin felt naked and exposed.
Now, with the kids having grown up so fast, there are fewer drop-offs and pickups. The book is written, so there is more time. More time to discuss soccer. More time to coach soccer. More time to second-guess what Jurgen Klinsmann is doing with the national side.
Scott Martin wants to coach soccer again. He once was a social studies teacher. He once coached the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds. He wants to teach and coach again. Boys, girls, college kids. Doesn’t really matter, he says.
He knows a lot about soccer. Long ball, direct ball, pass to feet. All that stuff. Heck, he almost had the Gonzaga job a few years back. But then they hired a new athletic director.
Scott Martin is 55, which is just a little older than the soda fountain furnishings at Huntridge Drugs — except for the soda machine itself, which is new. The soda jerk said the ice cream containers and the counter and the little stools with the red vinyl covers have been there since 1962. Almost as old as you guys, he said. Easy there, Jughead.
But Scott Martin does not look old. He looks fit. He barely touched those pizza fries. He probably thinks he can knock Leo Messi on his keister, if soccer teams still played with a sweeper.
He has a wonderful wife, a wonderful family. He has so much to live for. He drew a short straw and made it long. But Scott Martin wants to coach soccer again. I think it would make him feel even more whole.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.