STILLWATER -- One of the top pass catchers in the Pac-12 for pass happy Washington State, Tay Martin was a very welcomed addition late this summer to Oklahoma State football. The Houma, La. native left the Cougars when it looked like the Pac-12 wasn't going to play any football this fall, but playing football was just part of the allure for Martin to get back closer to home. The opportunity to be closer to family and especially his one-year-old daughter Reign Christine was powerful. For them to see him play was a blessing. Now, Oklahoma State fans and coaches, like receivers coach and offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn, are pressing to find ways to get Martin involved.
Jessica Morrey in the Oklahoma State University Athletic Dept. and a member of the Orange Power Studios team is an excellent reporter. The OSU grad was award winning as a sports reporter and anchor at KCEN-TV in Waco/Temple, Texas. I feel guilty here literally stealing this story from here, but we have her video embed to the story.
Martin is good. In three-years in the Cougars' Mike Leach offense he caught 143 passes for 1,615-yards and 15 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-Pac 12 freshman team selection in 2017.
In high school, he was Louisiana Class 4A All-State at Ellender Memorial High School with 45 receptions for 751-yards and eight touchdowns along with 493-yards rushing and five touchdowns. He made 36 tackles on defense and picked off a pair of passes. He did it all, even though his heart was heavy.
"Growing up, it was okay up until high school," Martin started. "Suddenly my mom passed away of a heart attack, cardiac arrest. It was a normal school day and she always woke me up. I was a big boy, but she always woke me up. She would bang on my door and I was waiting on that. I woke up on my own and came out. She was sitting there (in the living room) and was cold, so I knew it was too late."
His mom, April was gone and now with his father serving a jail sentence for a hit and run accident, Tay (birth name Devontavean) was the man of the house for his two younger sisters (Angelay and Salae and a younger brother in Zavean.
"Honestly, it was hard and I was questioning, why me God? Everything happens for a reason. I'm a firm believer in that," Martin confirmed. "I made the commitment to be there for my sisters and do all I could to be the best that I could be because I believed, in the end, it could be a big happy story. I believe my life is a movie, I really do."
All of this going on and Tay was being recruited for college. He had committed to play both football and basketball for Tulane in New Orleans. A good choice and close by. Tay took a look at it and decided he was best off taking a chance.
"I looked at what could impact my family the most and I put up my basketball shoes and went to Washington State," Martin said. "I thought that was the best move and I thought I could get to the NFL and help my family."
His career at Washington State was excellent on the field, productive in the Mike Leach spread offense. Off the field, tragedy followed Tay in the form of the tragic death of two close friends and teammates.
Quarterback Tyler Hilinski shocked everybody at Washington State when he committed suicide. The quarterback ended his life after his junior year and an autopsy revealed he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopather (CTE).
Then this past spring during the pandemic, Martin lost another close friend and teammate when Bryce Beekman, a defensive back for the Cougars died on March 23 from an accidental overdose (fentanyl and promethazine).
"I always have the question why, but like I said I believe everything happens for a reason," Martin said of the loss of two teammates. "Me losing him (Beekman) was another eye opener and I was tired of losing people. I wanted to be there for my family, be closer. I wanted them to be able to come to my games so they could see me play."
Jordan Arcement is a former wide receiver at Nicholls State University in Thibadeaux, La. and had become a mentor for Martin when he was in high school. Arcement is now the recruiting communications director for University of Virginia football. He is still close to Martin.
"You know he's always overcome and sometimes bad things happen to good people," explained Arcement. "People overcome and I think Tay is one of those people. His path is there and he just has to walk it."
Martin, a good student, has walked the path. He has been excellent since arriving in every way. There is a path for him to light it up in this offense too. I think it is on the verge. Meanwhile, seeing his daughter in the stands at Boone Pickens Stadium watching her dad is special.
"Just knowing my little girl is going to see me play makes me feel better," Martin said. "I know I'm going to play well."
Like he said, he will play well. So far he has three receptions for 19-yards all in the West Virginia game. A breakout is coming and when it does there will be some angels cheering.
"Every time I get on the field I talk to my mom. I talk to Tyler (Hilinski) and Bryce (Beekman), just praying to them to be with me and I've got them, I won't let them down," Martin said. "Honestly, getting that eligibility from the NCAA helped me a lot and I'm not going to take it for granted for sure."
Here's to this fall bringing Martin's story and movie-life a happy chapter and series of scenes in Stillwater.