Chemical engineer balances football and rigorous academics
Offensive lineman are generally thought of as big oafs plowing the way for the more skilled ball handlers. Colorado Buffaloes senior center Bryce MacMartin proves only half of the stereotype: he may be big, but he is certainly not an oaf.
Standing at 6’2″ and weighing in at 285 pounds, MacMartin is a prototypical center. His size enables him to move defenders with ease and also get out on the perimeter to set up screens and pull to lead block. The fact he is a chemical engineering major at CU, earned a 3.65 GPA in high school and scored a 1400 on his SAT is anything but typical.
“Those are two things I have always loved: school and football,” MacMartin said. “Sometimes you get a little heat from the guys, but it’s all just fun.”
MacMartin stepped into the starting center role after senior Mark Fenton went down with a broken left fibia in the Buffs’ 14-13 loss to Georgia on Sept. 23.
Since he came in, the offense has racked up 1,037 yards of total offense in three games. Before MacMartin, the offense had totaled only 581 yards in the three previous games.
“When I first knew I was going to have to step in, I just didn’t want the offense to hit a rut,” MacMartin said. “I think it is more a credit to (junior quarterback Bernard Jackson) and those guys who have been working hard. I don’t think me coming in has necessarily had a positive or negative effect on the offenses improvement.”
Despite having the demanding academic schedule of an engineer combined with the rigorous schedule of a football player, MacMartin has found time for both.
“It is difficult. I had a lot of trouble first adjusting last season when it was my first year here,” MacMartin said. “Traveling on the weekends and not having that much time and all that isn’t easy but I think I’ve done well with time management. When I’m doing football I’m focused on football. When I’m doing school I’m focused on school.”
Center is a position that requires as much mental awareness and capacity as it does physical presence and tenacity, and MacMartin has used his smarts off the field and translated them into football.
“Engineering is a lot of problem-solving, thinking on your feet and developing ways to solve problems, and that is kind of how we are on the football field,” MacMartin said. “When they throw us a wrinkle we have not prepared for, and adjusting to and being able to think quickly is something that I’m good at both on and off the field”.
While the transition from Fenton to MacMartin could have easily been an adjustment for the entire offensive line and Jackson, Head Coach Dan Hawkins said the change has been a smooth one.
“That’s the beauty of having an engineering major as your center. There are not a lot of formulas he is not going to understand,” Hawkins said. “He’s got things figured out. He did a nice job of taking pressure off Bernard.”
The center-to-quarterback relationship is obviously the most important part of making an offense tick, and every center will do things differently. Hawkins echoed how crucial the two players’ interaction is.
“Obviously the center and the quarterback are tied together a little bit, they make a lot of calls, get the ball to him correctly,” Hawkins said. “It’s interesting because you go through camp and you have a lot of bobbled snaps and it’s funny, you think you have all these quarterbacks and centers, and they do it the same but they don’t. They all take it differently and deliver it differently.”
Jackson, however, has had no problem adjusting.
“Both Mark and Bryce are really easy to work with,” Jackson said. “It was never really an issue.”
Fenton was slated to make a possible return to action when the Buffs play Kansas on Oct. 28, but MacMartin said he just wants to do as much as he can for the team while Fenton gets healthy.
“I think I have played fairly well,” MacMartin said. “I just wanted to help the offense continue to improve and I think we have done that. Hopefully when Mark comes back in, we will be that much better off.”