foreshadowed Incognito, Martin conflict

Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Based solely on pre-draft analysis by, the combination of Miami's now controversial linemen -- tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito -- has long appeared to be something like oil and water.
There is no way anybody should have expected them to mix very well, or at all.
And, as shocking as some believe the news to be in the last week, a look at their respective backgrounds offers ample clues to how and why they are now at the center of a socially and politically charged controversy over how players interact in the locker room and on the team.
Martin left the team last week after an incident, initially portrayed as a prank, in the team cafeteria. Incognito, one of the players involved in the incident and apparently the instigator in a series of abusive attacks on Martin, was suspended indefinitely Sunday by the Dolphins.
Martin, both by nature and nurture, is and was an extremely politically correct man. Incognito has shown consistently that he pays little attention to being politically or socially correct. Martin's goal is to be a trial lawyer. Incognito has already been in the legal system, but as a defendant following a brawl.
Martin grew up in North Hollywood, raised in a very politically correct home by parents -- Gus and Jane Howard-Martin -- who were both Harvard educated.
Reported "Martin's journey to Stanford came after he first committed to UCLA and resisted strong overtures from Harvard, the alma mater of his parents, Gus Martin and Jane Howard-Martin. Gus Martin said the family was told by Harvard's admissions office that his son would have been the university's first fourth-generation African-American student.
"Martin's great-grandfather on his mother's side, John Fitzgerald, graduated from Harvard in 1924 and knew W.E.B. DuBois. When Harvard Coach Tim Murphy came to the Martin house on a recruiting visit, Gus Martin said his son candidly told Murphy that he would most likely go to Stanford if he was accepted. There was little resistance from his parents. . . . There is still a chance he could end up at Harvard; after his N.F.L. career, Martin plans to attend law school. Gus Martin said his son came up with that himself."
By contrast,'s background on Icognito said: "He was the first Division I-A player to come out of Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.), which opened in 1996. Incognito only visited Nebraska and committed in May of 2000, before attending the Big Red Football School. He was also recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Southern California and Oregon."
But the scouting report included a special section on Incognito -- "off field issues" -- that showed he too was involved with multiple colleges, although hardly in the same manner Martin and his family discussed Harvard and Stanford.
"Incognito was suspended indefinitely by Nebraska before the 2004 season after repeated discipline problems. As a freshman in 2002, he was ejected for fighting from the Huskers' game against Penn State, then sat out the first half against Iowa State game the next week.
"In the spring of 2003, former Nebraska coach Frank Solich suspended Incognito for several team infractions. Richie was reinstated and went on to start all thirteen games that season.
"In February 2004, Incognito was charged with three counts of assault stemming from a fight at a party. He was found guilty of one misdemeanor assault charge after a three-day trial in June and paid a $500 fine. Another charge was dismissed and he was found innocent of the third. The Cornhuskers then suspended him indefinitely for what coach Bill Callahan called repeated violations of team rules. Incognito left Nebraska and in late September 2004, enrolled at the University of Oregon.
"Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has stipulated that Incognito had to complete an anger-management course and adhere to a strict code of conduct. When he failed to comply, Bellotti dismissed him from the Oregon program one week later. 'My point is, he will not represent the University of Oregon on the football field,' Bellotti said. 'There were conditions we had set down and set forth for him to be admitted to our program, and they were not met,' Bellotti told The Oregonian."
Incognito's off-field issues were well known by NFL team scouts and personnel departments. The Indianapolis Colts, via Tony Dungy and Bill Polian -- coach and general manager of the franchise at the time -- and New England Patriots, per then-general manager Scott Pioli, designated Incognito as "do not draft" because of character concerns. rated Incognito as a sixth- or seventh-round prospect, explaining his physical ability rated high but so did his potential for trouble.
Incognito was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2005. In 2009 was named by The Sporting News as the dirtiest player in the NFL, which reflected this pre-draft comment by -- "the second coming of Conrad Dobler."
Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman once described Dobler as: "was mean dirty. . . He tried to hurt people in a bad way... He played hurt, didn't complain, but he was a filthy, filthy player."
Martin's pre-draft analysis also reflected some irregularities, although of a different sort. He passed on the opportunity to work out for scouts at the Indianapolis Combine. There were mixed reports as to why. Some said he was ill before the combine and wanted to wait until Stanford's Pro Day. Others believed he simply preferred the more controlled and advantageous conditions on campus.
Whatever the reason, it backfired. His Pro Day was a major disappointment. Rob Rang, senior analyst for, attended that 2012 Pro Day at Stanford, which featured quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener, wide receiver Chris Owusu and guard David DeCastro.
Wrote Rang: "As impressive as DeCastro was, former linemate Jonathan Martin was disappointing.
"Advertised as a top-notch athlete, the first-team, All-Pac 12 left tackle was timed at 5.33 seconds in his first attempt at the 40-yard dash. Worse yet, it was aided by the wind. Martin came in at 5.43 seconds, according to scouts, on his second attempt against the wind. Perhaps more alarming was that the 6-5, 307-pound Martin lifted the bar only 20 times during the bench press and wasn't as fluid or explosive as DeCastro during position drills.
"Martin was also just average in the vertical (30") and broad jump (8'8") -- at least in comparison to other highly regarded offensive tackles at the Combine. While Martin's disappointing Pro Day will no doubt raise some concerns, three impressive years protecting Luck's blind side speaks for itself and will almost surely keep the big man in the draft's initial frame."
Rang recalled this week that he thought Martin appeared less engaged or enthusiastic than the other athletes and made a note of it. listed Martin as the fourth-best tackle in the draft and projected him worthy of a late first- or a second-round pick. The Dolphins selected him in the second round, 42nd overall. That made him a teammate and linemate of Incognito, who moved from the Rams to the Buffalo Bills in 2009, then to the Dolphins in 2010.
And the stage was set.

-- Frank Cooney is publisher of, which is a division of The Sports Xchange.

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