GREENSBORO — Less than a week after losing Franklin “Mac” McCain III to the NFL draft, N.C. A&T coach Sam Washington got “some of the best news I’ve ever received” Monday.
Running back Jah-Maine Martin announced on social media that he will play football for the Aggies in the spring.
“He has that ‘it’ factor that’s something you can’t coach,” Washington said. “Either you have it or you don’t.”
Meanwhile, Washington's program is dealing with seven positive COVID-19 tests among football players, the university announced on its web site Friday. A cluster is defined as five or more, and the tests came back positive Thursday and Friday.
Martin has earned All-MEAC honors in both of his seasons at A&T after transferring from Coastal Carolina. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound senior has rushed for 2,102 yards on 285 carries (7.4-yard average) and scored 30 touchdowns for the Aggies.
In 2019, the Conway, S.C., native was named a second-team FCS All-American by The Associated Press and by FCS Stats, as well as a first-team All-American by Boxtorow.com after rushing for 1,446 yards and 23 TDs as the Aggies went 9-3 and won the Celebration Bowl and the HBCU national championship.
“He has built a platform to do something great,” Washington said of Martin, who will graduate in May. “The first thing I told him he had to do, which he’s accomplished, was to make a name for himself. Now he has to move forward with his best performance to prove that he’s everything we believe he can be. One more season will give him that opportunity.”
What makes Martin so special?
“He makes the people around him better and a lot of people can’t do that,” Washington said. “Our offensive linemen want to block a little bit harder to give him an opportunity to get to the second level. The receivers want to run downfield to get after the free safety so (Martin) can show his top-end speed.”
What does Martin have to do to join former Aggies running back Tarik Cohen (Chicago Bears) in the NFL? Washington said the biggest area of improvement would be “catching the football.”
“I was so proud of him during the fall with how hard he worked on catching the football,” A&T’s coach said. “That’s only going to elevate his game.”
McCain, a three-time All-MEAC defensive back, announced Wednesday that he was entering his name in the NFL draft. The former Dudley standout opted out of a season that was pushed back to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mac did everything that we asked of him, and I’m in full support of his decision,” Washington said. “Would I have liked for him to stay for another year, from a biased standpoint and from a personal standpoint? Of course, but I totally understood his views and his plan.”
The plan for the spring is for the Aggies to play four regular-season games, starting at home Feb. 27 against S.C. State. The MEAC championship game is April 17, and the winner will receive an automatic berth in the NCAA’s FCS playoffs, which begin April 24.