Coachspeak: Minnesota’s Rossi on Martin

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Kamal Martin’s knee injury wasn’t good news for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It might, however, wind up being good news for the Green Bay Packers, who perhaps found a great bargain with the linebacker they drafted in the fifth round.

“I think the Packers are getting, honestly, tremendous value,” Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said this week. “I really think that if he hadn’t been injured this year, I can see him being a third-round guy or second-round guy. I think that highly of him. We got a chance to see how he was playing in spring ball and in preseason camp. And then an injury out of the gate, then he was back, and he finished the year injured again. In that middle stretch when he was healthy, he was dominant. I think the Packers have a guy who is going to be highly productive. I think his best football is ahead of him.”

The upside comes from Martin’s path to the draft. At Burnsville (Minn.) High School, Martin played quarterback and safety and was a finalist for Mr. Football Minnesota. He originally committed to play quarterback for Eastern Michigan before getting an offer to play defense for the Golden Gophers.

Meanwhile, Rossi joined the Gophers’ staff as a quality-control coach in 2017 before leading the defensive line in 2018 and becoming defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for 2019. It was Rossi who helped make the pivotal decision to turn Martin from pass rusher to inside linebacker for his final season.