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Jenks Basketball Coach Clay Martin Also an NFL Ref

By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer

WATCHING THE ACTION: Clay Martin lines up behind New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning (10), who attempts to throw to former OU star wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) in their game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, this past NFL season.


Courtesy photo


In the winter, Clay Martin can be seen on the bench coaching the Jenks boys’ varsity basketball team in games during the week.

But when the season starts in December, he won’t always be there for a Saturday game because he’s somewhere, getting ready to officiate a National Football League game on Sunday. 

Martin, a 1993 graduate of Hale who was inducted into the Tulsa Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, was hired to be the head boys’ basketball coach at Jenks in 2003. He served in that position for 12 seasons before stepping down for his NFL officiating job in 2015. But he remained with the Jenks administration as an assistant principal.

However, he recently returned to the head coaching position and remains an NFL official.

How did he get on an NFL crew?

“By the Grace of God, I think,” Martin says.

Martin began officiating football games in 2005 when he joined the Greater Tulsa Officials Association.

“Honestly, I started officiating just to make a little extra money to keep my wife at home when our kids were younger,” he says. “So, I was doing little kids football on Saturdays.”

Martin got a big break after his second year.

While working at the University of Tulsa spring scrimmage in 2007, he met Gerald Austin, the supervisor of officials for Conference USA. Austin had been an official in the NFL for 25 seasons before retiring that same year, and also refereed two Super Bowls.
“I just happened to be (at TU) working a scrimmage, and he hired me to referee in Conference USA that year,” Martin says. “So, my big break came when I got hired to be a Division-I football official after only two years.”

After eight seasons of doing games in Conference USA, Martin got a call from the NFL to be part of a crew as a side judge.

Concerning traveling to the NFL games, Martin says, “I typically fly out on a Saturday morning, In most of our games, we have that early kickoff on Sunday. I’m back home late Sunday night. While there is definitely more weekends involved in the NFL as compared to college, the amount of nights has decreased, which is really a blessing for me and my family because I’m home quicker, and I’m very thankful for that.”

In his first two seasons, Martin had the privilege of working a crew led by one of the most popular referees in the league.

“Not only do you get the joy of getting hired by the National Football League, but when I was told this icon named Ed Hochuli was going to be my referee, that just put the cherry on top,” Martin says. “I was so thankful to be with him in my first two years in the league. He is such a great teacher.”

This past season, Martin was on the staff of Carl Jeffers.

Martin says there is a bond that is formed with fellow game officials who come from all over the country due to working together in regular games every weekend for 26 weeks and attending meetings, training camps, and preseason games. “The bond goes beyond just being together on the field,” Martin says. “You develop those friendships and you’re checking in on each other’s families. It’s just like any normal friendship. We’re just together almost half of the weekends each year.”

A typical Saturday during the season for Martin begins with him flying out to his destination. Once there, he meets with his crew for a pre-game meeting. In the evening, they go out to dinner. When Sunday morning comes, he wakes up, eats a crew breakfast, then leaves for the stadium by 9:30 in the morning (generally for noon, central time, kickoffs).

Of course, there is plenty of mental preparation involved.

“I think all of us as officials have to be ready to communicate with players and coaches and provide any answer that they may want. With as many plays or snaps that go on in a football game, not everybody is always going to agree with your decision, period, but we have to be there, again, to let the coach or the player vent and try to answer any question they may have about what we saw or didn’t see.”

With the constant running up and down the field in order to keep up with the players’ action, officials run about five or six miles per game. Like the athletes they monitor, they have to stay in physical shape.

“For me, it’s just consistent exercise with weight training and cardio. Again, I have to be ready for August. I do my best to make it a year-round lifestyle, not just for being in shape for football, but also for my own quality of life as I continue to age,” Martin says. 

As for returning to coaching the hardwood, Martin is extremely grateful that Jenks allowed him to return to his post.

“They’ve been so good to me throughout this whole process,” Martin says. “They’re supportive and have worked with me on how to manage both ends of my careers. So, to get back to this program that I served for 12 years has been amazing, and I’m having a wonderful time at it.”

Updated 02-21-2018

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