Family Tradition

Countdown to State: Kirk and Kason have one final chapter left to write in Arlington

Kirk speaks with his son Kason prior to the start of their game against Angleton. Photo by Casey Chancellor/Jarhead Photography

Originally appeared on Vype.com.

HOUSTON—When Kason Martin steps off the bus underneath AT&T Stadium on Friday afternoon in Arlington, the senior quarterback of the Manvel Mavericks will be one step closer to his future.

One game is all that remains between Kason and his collegiate career just 42 minutes up the road from Arlington at the University of North Texas.

That remaining contest happens to be the biggest game of his high school career—the 5A Division I State Championship.

“We’re going to State and Kason’s leading us,” Manvel coach and Kason’s father Kirk said. “It really is a storybook life I’m living. It’s really incredible.”

THE DREAM

For some fathers it is the dream that their son will grow up and play football just like they did. Be the starting quarterback for the team and lead the program to the top.

Kirk, who moved to Manvel 12 years ago to open Manvel High School, dreamed that for his son Kason.

Kirk and his wife of 23 years Caren have four children, Kason is the youngest, and the last to leave home in just three weeks for North Texas.

Kason’s older brothers Koda, a starting left tackle at Texas A&M and London Harris, an outside linebacker at Texas State, both played football at Manvel. Koda was on the 2011 Manvel team that made it to state but fell short to Aledo.

Kirk and Caren’s daughter Cory Jo also went on to play collegiate volleyball and just transferred to Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The Martins have bled Manvel colors for the past 12 years and now it’s Kason’s time to write the final chapter.

“This is a super special time and you can’t get it back,” Caren said. “He’s our baby. He’s the youngest one in our family and the hard part about letting your kids go to college is once your oldest goes then after that you know what it feels like to miss a kid. I’m so thankful that he has a scholarship and he’s going to live out his dream. But I’ve never had to let one go in the middle of the year, so I’m trying to get over that. He told me “Momma quit crying, I’m not dying, I’m going to college.”

FATHER-SON RELATIONSHIP

A father-son relationship can already be a trying one at times.

Throw into the mix your father being the head coach of the football team you are the starting quarterback for and that brings a whole other dynamic to it.

“Every coach’s kid in America they have to earn it doubly because everybody calls it playing daddy ball; this guy was given it, he

didn’t earn it,” Kirk said. “That’s just not the case. He was on the freshman team as a freshman, on the junior varsity team as a sophomore and earned the job as a junior.”

Earning it he has and both Kirk and Kason have gone through the growing pains of getting to this place.

When Kason was a sophomore, Kirk knew he would probably be the guy under center the next year. For that role he had to prepare him and it did.

“My dad was super hard on me throughout these past three years, but the better I’ve gotten the less he’s chewed me out. Imagine that!,” Kason said with a laugh. “Anyways, I wouldn’t change a thing about me and my dad's relationship, he’s prepared me for college and life, my skin is thick and I can take coaching because of him. He’s the best coach in Texas I guarantee you!”

Some of that preparing meant coming down hard on him.

At times Kirk admitted he did come down too hard on him and felt bad for it, but has made sure over the past two seasons to be better. He has, and their relationship coach-player and father-son are better than ever.

“I love him with all my heart and I’m so proud of him,” Kirk said. “He has grown, he has gotten tougher and he’s become an unbelievable football player. A great leader and there’s not enough good adjectives to describe him.

“He’s really a great young man. He’s so many great things. He doesn’t cuss, he’s never drank a bit of alcohol ever, never really had a girlfriend. He’s just a really good kid that anybody would love to have.”

As Caren has sat back and watched, she has seen over the last two seasons not only her husband grow but also her youngest son.

“That father-son relationship there’s times where it’s really hard,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of intense emotions and they both want the same thing. But it’s not always easy.

“It’s just been beautiful watching them grow. Watching him grow into a young man and them figure out how to work together on the football field and not be frustrated with one another. Because it’s a different relationship when it’s your daddy out there telling you what to do. They’ve figured it out. I’m so thankful and so glad.”

GROUNDED AND HUMBLE

Try to talk to Kason about his stat line after a game and you will hear a lot of praise but not about anything he did.

“He’s never made it about him,” Kirk said. “Anytime he gets praised he talks about his offensive line or his unbelievable receivers or his great stable of running backs or this great defense that keeps giving us the ball with a short field.”

Kason extends his grounded and humble ways off the field and into his personal life.

A day after Manvel’s 35-10 win against Angleton to get to state, a picture of Kason came up on Twitter. It was of him preaching as a part of the The Krush Student Ministry as a part of a special weekend event.

Kason and the Martin’s are deeply devoted in their faith and are sure to praise God for all the blessings they’ve had.

Every morning at their house after a full breakfast of bacon and eggs and the other fixings prepared by Caren and then Kason’s grandfather Jim Robbins comes over for a bible study.

That daily routine, which will play out the exact same way this week every morning, has played a major role into the man that Kason has become.

“My mom has been the one who keeps my head on straight when things go wrong or right,” Kason said. “My grandpa is another huge supporter in my life. We have bible study every morning, he’s helped grow my faith this year and use football to impact my team with Christ’s love!”

Not just Kason but all the Martin’s children—Koda, Cory Jo, London and Kason—have been raised the same way.

As any coach will tell you, especially during football season, a coach’s wife is arguably one of the most important members of the team.

“She’s always pouring into them. I just can’t tell you all she does for those kids,” Kirk said. “She’s incredible. She’s a really amazing woman. They are who they are because of her. That’s the truth. All of them are amazing, all my kids are really good kids.”

TREASURING THE MOMENTS

Every breakfast and dinner where they are all around the table at the Martin’s home this week will be treasured.

With this being the final week of school and Kason’s final high school game just a few days away, Caren said they would just treasure this time because soon this fairytale will be over.

“No matter what there’ll be tears,” Caren said about whenever the final seconds tick off the clock in Friday’s game. “Because I’m going to cry because it’s over and I’m going to cry if we win. I don’t even want to mention the other. It’s just going to be tears of joy.

“Just so thankful for the way it’s all happened. When there’s that much pressure on your kid you never know are they going to rise up, rise to the occasion or are they going to crumble under the pressure. The Lord has blessed us with a whole lot of wins. In the last two years he’s only lost one game. That’s unheard-of. We’re so proud.”

More than once, the head coach of the Mavericks has admitted he’s living in that fairy-tale and there’s just one more thing to make it a happy ending.

“If we win this game it’ll be a storybook ending for sure,” Kirk said.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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