Football has captivated Greg Martell since he was a fourth-grader playing for Saint Michael’s Giants in Levittown. For the Ursinus football captain, the uncompromising physical demands and rigors of defensive strategy are, wait for it, fun. Training for the 2011 season, Martell toiled in the weight room and even ran in the roasting summer heat.
That doggedness has turned the heads of more than just teammates and opponents. Martell, a Math and Business and Economics double major, has been named the first player in Ursinus history to win Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The award is given to a player from the Southern Region of the ECAC and is voted on by the coaches. This prestigious tribute comes just months after Martell was named Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
“I was surprised and happy when I found out,” says Martell, who comes across as soft-spoken and modest. Naturally, his family was proud to hear the news of his latest award.
A menace as middle linebacker, Martell is equally strong in his coursework. He earned the Fall Conference Academic Honor Roll for the third consecutive year and was a Summer Research Fellow.
“Greg’s been a pleasure to work with because he can take all the focus and dedication he has on the field and apply it to his studies,” said Eric Gaus, Ph.D., assistant professor of business. As a Summer Fellow, Martell worked on an honors project examining Pennsylvania’s Keystone Opportunity Zone program. The KOZ program tries to encourage businesses to locate in old buildings in Pennsylvania with tax incentives.
“Taking on a double major of Math, and Business and Economics, is not an easy task,” says Jennifer VanGilder, Ph.D., assistant professor of business. “It’s hard to be able to fit in all the classes because both majors are very unit intensive, but also the level of rigor that he has to rise to for these courses is impressive. He is the guy that you want on your team, be it on the field or in the classroom.”
Other than a few sprained ankles and a pulled hamstring, Martell’s football career has flourished for 12 years straight without any major injuries. Add to that a shining pile of awards that he scooped up in high school, too. Neil French, the co- defensive coordinator coach at Bucks County’s Neshaminy High School, says Martell stood out as industrious and self-motivated. When he was 15, Martell looked French in the eye and told him that he planned to coach one day, too.
“Greg was one of our best players,” says French. Martell still visits his high school coaches and talks with students on Neshaminy’s football team. “He’s a tremendous role model. As an athlete he was always looking to learn and to improve. We’re just very proud of how successful he’s become.”
When he’s not playing sports, you’ll probably find him watching them. He also plays golf and basketball with his friends and tutored students in Math, and Business and Economics. “Greg is an exemplary student – athlete that has had an unprecedented career here at Ursinus,” says Peter Gallagher, Ursinus football coach. “He’s truly deserving of all his post-season honors as he has set the bar on what it takes to be a Bear!”
Ending his college playing career is bittersweet, but Martell says he is “ready for the next part of my life.” A career in finance and coaching is next on the list for Martell, who graduates in May.