HOMEWOOD — Samford linebacker Noah Martin loves his hometown of Chattanooga. He wants to make that clear.

Martin is not a big fan of the football program at the University of Chattanooga. He also wants to make that clear.

“Do I love the city where I'm from? Yes,” Martin said. “But do I hate the school? I absolutely hate Chattanooga. I want nothing more but to beat them, especially with the history we have with Chattanooga. I’m very fired up to go up there. For me, it’s a homecoming game, I’m excited to be going back to my hometown. But I want nothing more but to [beat] them in front of their home crowd.”

There you go, spoken like a true rivalry.

Samford (8-1 overall, 6-0 Southern Conference) travels to Chattanooga on Saturday in a critical game in the Southern Conference standings. Samford enters the final two weeks of the regular season with sole possession of first place in the SoCon standings, but there’s a jumble right behind the Bulldogs. Chattanooga (7-2), Furman (7-2) and Mercer (7-2) each have 5-1 So Con records. Things will clear up a bit on Saturday with Samford trying to end a seven-game losing streak to Chattanooga and Mercer playing host to Furman.  

Martin said he took a recruiting visit to UTC for a game, but it didn’t go well for the linebacker from The Baylor School in Chattanooga.

“They brought me to a game, didn’t have a name tag for me or anything, didn’t really have tickets for me, I had to wait a while to get into the game,” Martin said. “I left at halftime and was like, forget Chattanooga.”

His visit to Chris Hatcher’s Samford program was a bit different.

“Originally, my top prospect for college was Wofford,” said Martin, who also considered Harvard, Yale and Richmond. “I went there and loved the campus. It has a similar feel to Samford, but I told my mom, after we came here, ‘Well, Samford is Wofford but 10 times better.' I went to Baylor, and it was more of a spread-out school so you had to walk everywhere to class. That’s how it is here at Samford. I like the natural beauty here, as well as the facilities we have. And, just with the team, it’s very much like a family.”

Martin was a linebacker at The Baylor School but also played multiple positions. As a senior, he had 110 tackles, three interceptions and four touchdowns. He became a full-time linebacker at Samford and has prospered.

His first action came as a redshirt freshman in the 2021 Spring season. He played in seven games, starting twice, and was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team after contributing 35 tackles, 2.3 tackles for loss and two sacks. In the fall of 2021, he started 11 games with 72 tackles, five tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

This fall, the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Martin, has a team-leading 63 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a pair of quarterback hurries. He’s a big part of a defense that took big strides forward under first-year defensive coordinator Chris Boone.

Samford has allowed 15 points or fewer in four of six SoCon games thus far, including allowing just a field goal in a 28-point win over The Citadel.

Hatcher said that Martin plays a big role in that success.   

“He shows up with his lunch pail and hard hat on, each and every day,” Hatcher said. “He’s a tough competitor. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, the guys listen to him. He lets his pads do his talking. He practices that way. I think the only time I ever have to get on him is in drills when you’re not supposed to take guys to the ground. He seems to try to blow people up. He’s a really good player and any good defense needs a good middle linebacker.”  

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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