Giants’ Blake Martinez opens up about best friend’s death

Giants linebacker Blake Martinez, who signed a free-agent deal this past offseason, tackles some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What do you remember about your 2016 wild-card win over the Giants while with the Packers?

A: The main play I remember that game was the Hail Mary before halftime to Randall Cobb. And then obviously The Boat picture leading up to the game, which gave us a good amount of motivation, and understanding of like, “I don’t think these guys are completely locked in” going into the game.

Q: How much have the doubters in your life driven you?

A: Oh, I think a lot. I remember back when I was in high school, I got told by University of Arizona that I wasn’t good enough to play in college, and then ended up going to Stanford, having my career and there. And then coming out of Stanford it was, “Oh, I don’t think he can be a three-down linebacker, I don’t know if he’s fast enough, I don’t know if he’s physical enough, I don’t know it he can get off blocks,” all these type of things. And then obviously in the NFL, “He made plays,” but there’s always still those kind of doubts across the board — impact player — and it’s always something that I always want to prove people wrong and then prove myself right. And so going through this year, I think I’ve done that, and I think it’s one of those things that I want to keep doing and keep consistently doing each and every week.

Q: You lost your best friend Richard Blau to cancer your freshman year of high school.

A: He was my first best friend in elementary school. It’s always something that always comes to mind, whether it’s [NFL charity initiative] My Cause, My Cleats or any charity event that I’m doing, community service thing that I’m doing, because he’s one of the main reasons that once I got to the NFL. I wanted to be able to use my platform in a way to help other kids going through those type of tough times, because he would want me to do that, and for anybody else that is going through that would want someone to be there for them to show them that things are gonna be OK, and if I can go out and save one kid’s life out of the millions and millions of kids that are going through it, I would any day of the week.

Q: What was that like for you emotionally when he passed away?

A: I think it was one of my first moments that I realized life isn’t fair. When it happened, I asked my mom, “Why?” Why someone so young, so nice, so great as a kid, why does it happen? Things happen for a reason. He inspired so many people, and looking back at it, it was so tough for me to kind of deal with. But it’s become such a great positive in so many people’s lives.

Blake Martinez
Blake Martinez makes a tackle.Getty Images

Q: They named a baseball park in Tucson, Ariz., after your friend.

A: He was a crazy good baseball player. I think in like sixth grade he was throwing like 70 mile an hour fastballs.

Q: Do you remember the day you learned he had cancer?

A: It happened sixth grade. We were all on the basketball court, and as he went up for a layup, he just fell straight to the ground. We thought he’d just slipped and fallen. So obviously all the sixth graders kind of just chuckled and laughed, but he wasn’t getting up. Then we went and got the nurse, and the nurse brought a wheelchair out, and then took him to the principal’s office or the nurse’s office, and next thing you know, we didn’t see him for like two weeks. And then my principal brought in like three of us that were really good friends with him, and he’s like, “Hey, I just want to let you know that Richard’s diagnosis is bone marrow cancer in his knee.”

Q: Describe living in a trailer home when you were young.

A: Kind of a humble moment for us, my dad. My dad [Marc] worked with my great grandpa at the time, and basically learned the ropes on owning his own construction business, and then he basically started his own construction business when he was like 25, I think.

Q: How was it humbling?’

A: I think it was just something where you go to school, you see other kids with X, Y and Z, and you come back home and that’s kind of what you know, and my dad was always somebody that was always a preacher of hard work, he’s always gonna outdo anything. And so that’s something that he always kind of told us, and it was always a role model for me to show us that we went from a trailer home to a super-nice house in a matter of 10 years, because he would wake up at 3 in the morning every day, come back home at 7, go to bed, and do the same thing over and over again, and provide for us. It’s helped me throughout my career, because whenever I think things are tough and things aren’t worth it, I always think about what he did for us, and how much it’s helped me get to where I am today.

Q: A recent tweet from you responding to an “I love that guy” quote from defensive coordinator Patrick Graham: “Thank you for letting me be me.”

A: He just understands the type of player that I am. His ability to explain things to me has allowed me to flourish in his defense and then also just go out there and show what I’m capable of. This year has just been night and day compared to other years, and he’s just a person that makes football so much fun to go out and play again.

Q: You’ve described your on-field mentality as intellectual brutality.

A: I feel like I’m a player that goes out there and plays extremely physical, but is always extremely efficient in what I’m doing, and knowing where to be so I’m not out of control.

Q: Who is one linebacker in NFL history whose brain you would have liked to pick?

A: Lawrence Taylor. He’s just like fearless, relentless, just the attitude he played with, the ability he played with, the knowledge he played with, knowing how to be in all the right spots at the right time making the biggest plays in the biggest moments. It’s just somebody that you’d want to be able to ask like, “How?”

Q: One RB in NFL history to test your skills against in the open field?

A: Barry Sanders.

Q: You’ve been to two NFC Championship games, losing to the Falcons after the 2016 season and to the 49ers last year. What was that like not getting to a Super Bowl?

A: I’d definitely say those were the two hardest moments walking back to that locker room knowing: 1) the season was over, and 2) you were one game short of achieving any football kid’s dream as a player to be able to make it to the Super Bowl and possibly win it.

Q: What is your memory of playing against Saquon Barkley?

A: You’re just on your toes every single second. Make sure you know exactly where he’s at all times, where he’s lining up, what he’s doing. Whenever he touches the ball, try to get to him as fast as possible, don’t give him any space at all, and just make sure he doesn’t jump over you. When you play this guy, make sure he does not literally hurdle over my whole entire body, that was my game plan going in. Definitely the hardest person to tackle I’ve ever had to go against.

Q: Physically, what have you observed about Daniel Jones?

A: He’s just got it all. He’s able to do everything you need as a quarterback. He has the mobility, he has the arm strength, he has the intelligence, he has athleticism to do things that you don’t see normal quarterbacks do.

Q: This may sound like a crazy question: Does he remind you in any way of Aaron Rodgers?

A: Yeah, there are moments. Aaron’s one of the greatest of all time. I’ve had the pleasure to watch Aaron at practice, pretty much every day of my career, and obviously in games as well. Daniel has pretty much close to the same arm strength. Intelligence-wise, overall player, he shows many things I saw Aaron do. Obviously Aaron’s doing it for way longer than Daniel has. But yeah, I’ve definitely seen a lot of similar traits across the board.

Q: Describe coach Joe Judge.

A: Every single one of us is getting better non-stop. He’s not gonna let anybody slack off.

Q: You haven’t seen him blink or flinch?

A: No, not at all. Every single day he comes in as the same person no matter if we just won the Super Bowl or we just won a preseason game or just lost a preseason game or just lost a game.

Q: You played against the younger Devonta Freeman?

A: I remember when he first got here, I told him, “I hated going against you.” Just because his ability to do literally everything. He’s an extremely strong guy no matter how big or how small people think he is. He’s able to run in between the tackles, he’s patient as a runner, finds the open hole, is able to get outside, beat the guy to the edge. And then in the pass game, he’s able to do everything from catching the checkdown and breaking a tackle here and there, gaining 10-plus yards, or running wheel routes. He just had kind of that whole package as a running back.

Q: How much do you sense he has left in the tank?

A: I think he has a ton left in the tank.

Q: What is the most meaningful thing you’ve done as a Captain?

A: I think it’s just my work ethic, that’s kind of been the thing that I’ve always tried to portray and show every single day, that I’m a guy that’s gonna go out there and do exactly what needs to be done full speed, and as a player and as a leader of the team, the guy that makes everyone else around him better, whether it’s calming them down when things get stressful, or whether someone needs a pro talk or needs a refocus or whatever needs to happen, I’m always that guy that’s able to be there for him.

Q: When you were 10, you gave up football for a year?

A: It was my first padded practice, and I hated it, and told my dad I didn’t want to play football anymore, and I ended up playing soccer instead that year. And after that, my uncle [Clarence] ended up talking me back into it ’cause my cousin was playing, and then I just fell in love with it.

Q: You weighed 265 or 270 pounds at one time?

A: My mom [Carrisa] tells me I wasn’t fat, I was thick.

Q: How old were you?

A: That was my freshman year in high school, so I was playing D-line on varsity that year. I don’t know what would have happened in my football career if I kept eating my PB&Js every night.

Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?

A: Michael Jordan. I think he’s the greatest of all time. … The best guys in their kind of fields — whether it’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Conor McGregor, A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez], Derek Jeter … you kind of look at those people and you just want to figure out what they did day in and day out. You want to be that type of person in your given field.

Q: Why did you admire Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher?

A: No matter what game it was, they were doing something to impact the game. That leadership role, everyone respected them, and everyone knew that they were gonna do what they were supposed to do. They always made everyone around them better.

Q: You proposed to your wife Kristy at a New York City restaurant during a bye week in your second season with the Packers. What is fatherhood like?

A: It’s awesome. It’s definitely a whirlwind. My daughter [Kinsley, 2] for the first like six months, would only sleep like every 45 minutes. She just wanted to move non-stop. A month in, she was like sticking her head up, and like four months she was crawling, and seven months she was walking … basically just like non-stop unless we put her in her crib. She’ll play until the batteries run out, basically. It just gives you that extra motivation and extra reason to go out each day to do your best at whatever you’re doing.

Q: What was your best Stanford moment?

A: I’d probably say my senior year, we were playing USC in the Pac-12 championship game, and they were starting to come back on us, and I ended up blitzing and then sacking the quarterback and forcing the fumble, and Solomon Thomas picked it up and scored a touchdown, and that kind of sealed the gene for us to win the game and go to the Rose Bowl.

Blake Martinez tackles Benny Snell.Getty Images

Q: Do you still have a cheesehead?

A: I don’t, but I believe my parents do.

Q: You wore one I assume when you were in Green Bay.

A: I think I wore one after I got drafted there. I think it’s somewhere in my parents’ house.

Q: How did you enjoy being on the “Blue Rush” New York Post podcast?

A: Oh, I loved it. Easy interview, fun interview and I want to go more and more of ‘em.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Vince Lombardi, Walt Disney, Elon Musk.

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Will Smith.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Margot Robbie.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: Post Malone.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Anything breakfast.

Q: Favorite all-time restaurant?

A: Geranium in Copenhagen [Denmark].

Q: What is your message to New York Giants fans?

A: We are on the right path. We’re just as frustrated as probably all of you guys are. The culture of this team is amazing. This is probably one of my favorite teams to play on ever across the board. Every single person wants to be better, every single person comes to work every day, there’s nobody that’s bigger than the team, the coaches are amazing, every single one of ’em, strategically understands how all of us work together. This team is going to be a special team. Regardless of win-losses, we are in the right direction and we’re getting exactly where we need to be at the right time.

This Post first appeared on “New York Post”

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