February 2, 2010

Top fullback finds a home at Ole Miss

Martez Eastland didn't intend to commit to Ole Miss during his visit to Oxford last weekend.

It took just 10 minutes for those plans to change.

"For the first 10 minutes I met Coach (Houston) Nutt, I knew I wanted to be there," Eastland said Monday afternoon. "I loved the way he treated his guys. He's a really nice guy and a special person. The whole coaching staff really treated me with respect and they took care of me. I just want to be a part of something like that.

"They have a beautiful campus. All the facilities are nice. I didn't think I'd commit to Ole Miss, but when I got down there, saw everything and met the coaches, I knew it was the place for me."

Eastland's last few weeks were a bit of a whirlwind. After making the transition from likely non-qualifier to certain qualifier, several schools made late runs at the three-star fullback from Ringgold, Ga.

"It's all been crazy," said Eastland, who picked up late offers from North Carolina, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss and others. "The main reason was because I was a late qualifier. I took the test in December and made a qualifying score."

Eastland, ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 4 fullback prospect, said Ole Miss told him he could earn playing time as a true freshman in the fall. The 6-foot, 235-pounder has been versatile throughout his prep career, impressing college coaches with his strong running style as well as his hands. Ole Miss, Eastland said, told him he would be target to get some snaps in the "Wild Rebel" offense at some point in his college career.

"I've got very quick feet or I can run you over, either way," Eastland said.

Eastland said most schools are recruiting him as a running back or fullback. He had 211 carries for 1,531 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior. He also caught 16 passes for 200 yards and two more TD's. As a senior, Eastland rushed for another 1,561 yards and more than 30 touchdowns.

On defense, Eastland played as a cornerback, strong safety. linebacker and defensive end.

"He can throw the ball," Ringgold coach Robert Atkins said. "He can run the ball. He's got great hands out of the backfield and he's just so versatile where he can fullback, tailback, H-back. I've coached for 31 years and he's the only kid I've ever had where he was the best at any position I put him."

Eastland said he'll sign with Ole Miss on Wednesday morning and start summer school in Oxford on May 26.

Atkins, said the stability Eastland will enjoy at the college level will be something he's never really enjoyed. Eastland's father, former Auburn and Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Donnie Humphrey, was not a part of Eastland's life until last spring, when father and son met for the first time.

"You can see what he's overcome," Ringgold coach Robert Atkins said.

Eastland was classified as homeless last year. He lived with several families, including Atkins, for the next several months. He's living with his mother now, though Atkins wants to get him to Ole Miss as soon as possible.

"He's going to be in a stable environment," Atkins said. "He's going to gain friendships. I have the ultimate respect for those coaches over at Ole Miss. I knew they were that kind of men. I know they'll take care of him. Nutritionally, he'll be in a completely different world. He'll get in the weight room with Coach (Don) Decker and that will be substantial for him to make gains. I think that stability will really allow him to flourish, both as a person and as an athlete."

It's a future Eastland can't wait to experience.

"I think our future is strong," Eastland said. "We've got a lot of good recruits coming in and Coach Nutt is a very good coach. We're going to have a very good team."

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