With that kind of talent, and with the insatiable fervor recruiters have for such a commodity, it must have seemed a relief to Martin when in February, as a junior, he verbally committed to Notre Dame. It hasn't been.
"Chris probably should not have committed so early," says his mother, Cheryl Martin. "He proclaimed Notre Dame would be his school last February thinking that would quiet things down. It only encouraged everybody else."
Martin, a Bay Area native now residing in suburban Denver, is the five-star jewel of Notre Dame's 2010 recruiting bounty. That is, if he adheres to the non-binding verbal commitment he made to Charlie Weis and the Fighting Irish, nearly a full year to the date prior to national signing day.
"I would tell every mother, every father in our position, 'Take your time'," says Cheryl, who lives in San Leandro, Calif., with Chris's father, Steve. "We kind of put the cart before the horse when Chris committed a year early."
Martin no longer lives with his parents, but rather with Shewl, 28, in an upscale apartment complex in Aurora, Colo. There is no family strife -- the interview you are reading was conducted on a three-way line with Shewl and Cheryl participating from Colorado and California, respectively.
Martin will make an official visit to Notre Dame on the weekend of October 17 to watch the Irish take on USC, which happens to be the school with the best chance of luring Martin away from South Bend.
Pete Carroll," says Cheryl. "He liked him.
"But I can only give you my opinion," she continues. "I'm more concerned about the support system he has in the school. A coach has 100 players; I want to know my son's on the radar."
The Martins made an unofficial visit to Notre Dame in April for the Blue-Gold game.
"I love the school and I absolutely respect [Weis]," says Cheryl, who says that she speaks with the Irish head coach "twice a week ... twice a month. He's given me his word he'll take care of my son."
On Sept. 29, Weis was asked about Martin backtracking on his verbal commitment, or so it would seem, although the five-star recruit's name was never mentioned.
"Some of the things that these players tell you when you guys get a chance to communicate with them and what they say to me might not necessarily be the same thing," Weis replied. "I have a very strong view on what a commitment is, and all these players clearly understand what that stance is."
When Weis was prodded about whether a scholarship offer would be rescinded should a verbal commit make an official visit to another school, he replied, "I'll just once again -- because I know the person in particular we're getting at -- just say the communication between us has been very good. Let's just leave it at that."
Cheryl Martin initially hoped that another opponent on the Irish schedule -- Stanford -- would win her son's favor.
She loved the academics and the proximity, but the Cardinal are out of the picture at present.
"It had a lot to do with competitiveness," she says. "Right now Stanford is not at the forefront of college football. Also, I met with (head coach) Jim Harbaugh and he did not give me the same sense that he would take care of Chris."
"Chris wants an opportunity to play on national TV every Saturday," says Deshaun. "Also, the opportunity to play for a national championship."
The Cardinal, coincidentally, have the same record as the Irish and Trojans (4-1) with both schools scheduled to play them in November. Also, they have a rapidly rising dark-horse Heisman candidate in tailback Toby Gerhart.
Still, at this stage Mrs. Martin, who stresses that she has one of three votes in this decision, appears to be loyal to the Irish.
"They're rich in tradition," she says. "It's South Bend, my son can't get in too much trouble. There's nothing to do. And the people there, from the fans to the students to the staff, will take care of him."
Until last winter, Chris Martin was a standout defensive end at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. But, according to Cheryl, the school did not properly regulate the traffic of recruiters showing up at school to see her only son, his grades began to suffer, and "his head coach, in part, was just not conducive to Chris's growth."
Last winter, Chris moved to Arizona to live with an uncle and attended Westwind Preparatory Academy in Phoenix. The idea was to enroll him in the prestigious Hun School in Princeton, N.J., which, because of its early graduation policy has become somewhat of a blue-chip gridder magnet the past half-decade. Graduates of the Hun School, such as Notre Dame freshman defensive tackle Tyler Stockton, are able to enroll in college at the outset of the spring semester.
"The Hun School turned us down," says Cheryl. "They did not want to appear like a football factory. It backfired. We had to come up with a Plan B, and that was Colorado."
Thus, Chris moved in with his cousin Deshaun, who played small-college football at Northern State in South Dakota, Deshaun's fiancee, and Deshaun's 14 year-old brother, Dimitri. Chris enrolled at perennial public school gridiron power Grandview High School in Aurora, which went undefeated in 2008. The Wolves have dropped their last two games after winning their first three.
Deshaun Shewl has advised his little cousin on the realities of big-time college football.
"You're a five-star recruit now," Deshaun says, "but the minute you sign that all goes away. That practice field? It's a pasture, and you're just one of the cows."
Cheryl Martin laughs at the metaphor, then says, "A degree from Notre Dame is much more prestigious than one from the University of Colorado."
Both Cheryl and Deshaun agree that it is important to Chris that he get on the field early in his career. To that end, they say, Chris was buoyed by the sight of Irish freshman linebacker Manti Te'o starting last weekend versus Washington.
"I'm not saying that was Notre Dame's strategy," says Deshaun. "They're going to do what best helps the team. But it showed Chris that you're going to get a shot to make a difference as a freshman."
"It was huge," says Cheryl, of Te'o's start. "Chris was very, very concerned about (defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta) giving him an opportunity. He understands what he must do to contribute to a program; he just wants to know he's going to have a shot."
USC is deep at defensive end -- junior Everson Griffen is All-American caliber -- but Carroll has never shied away from giving true freshmen playing time. The Irish, meanwhile, are nowhere near as thin at any position as they are at defensive end. Through the team's first four games the three players who rotated at those two spots -- Kapron Lewis-Moore, Kerry Neal and John Ryan -- combined for one sack. Martin would likely start for them even sooner than Te'o did.
Getty Images for The Miami Proje
Getty Images for The Miami Proje
Getty Images for The Miami Proje
At this point you can consider Martin committed to Notre Dame with the door propped a little bit open. Perhaps the outcome of the USC-Notre Dame contest will sway him. Then again, Michael Floyd made his official visit in 2007 when the Trojans pummeled the Irish, 38-0, and Te'o made his during November's ignominious defeat to Syracuse, and they're both here.
No matter, says Cheryl Martin, the road to her son's heart leads through San Leandro.
"My arm reaches all the way to Colorado if you will," she says. "And at this point coaches know that they should come see Steve and I. If you really want to get Chris, you gotta come to home base."
Both USC and Notre Dame have a bye this weekend. Is Cheryl Martin expecting a visit from either Carroll or Weis?
"I don't know," she says coyly.