In 2001, David Martinez was in the midst of a breakout season. A redshirt freshman out of Shawnee, Kansas, Martinez notched five goals and three assists in just 16 games. After scoring for the first time against Texas Christian, he rallied further during Big Ten play. Martinez tallied Wisconsin's lone goal at Michigan, two and an assist against Michigan State, and added another assist in the Badgers' 1-0 win over Ohio State. His point total in Big Ten play ranked fifth, an impressive mark for a first year player.
The former St. Thomas Aquinas star, who led his team to a state championship in his final season, chose Wisconsin for its academic prowess. Martinez, an honor student each year at St. Thomas, decided Wisconsin was the best place to get an education.
"[What made me choose Wisconsin was] the whole campus atmosphere and the academics," Martinez said. "I looked at Wake Forest and Michigan State too, but I liked the academics."
In the meantime, the Wisconsin men's soccer team was heading in the wrong direction. After coach Jim Launder (who guided the Badgers to an NCAA Championship in 1995) was fired following the 1996 season, Wisconsin hired Kalekeni Banda to run the program. Banda compiled just a 37-58-4 record in his five seasons at UW. 2001, the first year Martinez suited up for the Badgers, would be Banda's last at the helm.
Three years later, Martinez is just beginning his senior campaign at Madison under now third-year coach Jeff Rohrman. And while, in the last two years playing for Rohrman, Martinez has yet to equal the individual numbers he put up under Banda, Martinez loves learning under his current coach.
"It's like night and day," Martinez said. "The main difference between Coach Banda and Coach Rohrman is the interaction with the players — the coach to players relationship. Coach Rohrman's recruiting techniques are great."
Martinez has played a large role in Rohrman's rebuilding effort. His goal at home against the nationally ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in 2002 was the game-winner. A year ago, Martinez continued to come up big, tallying game-winning goals in three separate games, one of which gave Wisconsin a victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament and sent them to a semifinal matchup against eventual NCAA Champion Indiana. Martinez lists that win against the Buckeyes as the best moment of his career at UW.
Once again this season Martinez is playing with the aggressive style that Badger fans have grown accustomed to. The attacking midfielder recorded his first point of the young season against Dayton when he took a free kick and assisted on the first of Jed Hohlbein's three goals. Martinez says that his playmaking skills are only part of what he brings to the team.
"My role strategically is that I'm an assist maker," Martinez said. "And leadership-wise, being a fifth-year senior, I try to pass on my knowledge."
After two years of hovering around the .500 mark, Martinez is hoping to lead Wisconsin to bigger and better things, namely the NCAA Tournament.
"Our goal as a team is to make the NCAA tournament," Martinez said. "Our theme this year is 'Headin' to the Big Dance.' Individually, I just want to make the most of it that I can, of my opportunities."
If the Badgers do land a spot amongst the top 48 teams, Martinez will be one of the reasons, as he is a driving force in the Wisconsin midfield. But regardless of the team's finish, Martinez will be remembered for his tenacious playing and strong leadership.