UTSA walk-on Frankie Martinez balancing odd jobs with unexpected starting role

After most of the roadrunners returned home after Wednesday’s practice and team briefings, right tackle Frankie Martinez was forced to make one final stop and take a job painting a door.

On many days, Martinez’s routine isn’t that different from his other teammates, starting with early morning practice and plenty of time in the training room treating a bulky hip and elbow.

The redshirt sophomore and East Central product fits in with afternoon classes and meetings, and is studying for his kinesiology degree whenever he finds a few spare moments reviewing flashcards written by his fiancée.

But as a stooge who pays his own tuition, Martinez is also looking for ways to generate income. Using the skills he learned from his father and grandfather, or simply scouring YouTube for hours, Martinez takes on odd jobs like painting houses or building sheds and fences.

Although a series of injuries on UTSA’s offensive tackles have made him an unexpected starter, Martinez said he still picks up once or twice a week outside of work, creating an unusual and challenging balancing act.

“It’s tough, but it is what it is,” Martinez said. “I’m going to have to work the rest of my life, so it kind of prepares me for later in life. It’s just a part of life, so it’s not that big of a deal.”

When the Roadrunners released their first depth chart for 2022, Martinez wasn’t listed as one of the six attacking options.

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Just a few days later, in UTSA’s opening game against Houston, he played most of the snaps in right tackle. And as the Roadrunners prepare to host Texas Southern at the Alamodome at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Martinez is expected to make his first career start.

During a redshirt season in 2020 and a reserve role last season, Martinez’s friends and family often goaded him about when he might step onto the field. He never imagined the excited reactions he gets now when he tells them he’s a rookie.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of just being a part of this group and just getting some playing time,” Martinez said. “It’s very special.”

The opportunity is the result of an offensive line that coach Jeff Traylor has dubbed “Snakebit.”

Potential left tackle Payne He’Bert was lost to a long-term injury early in fall camp. Makai Hart started with right tackle and lost six snaps in the opener against Houston. His backup, Ernesto Almaraz, was already injured, could only hold about a third of the snaps in the first two weeks, and barely saw the field against Texas.

The return of Demetris Allen after two weeks of losing off-field trouble should bump Martinez back down the depth chart, but Allen was eliminated through injury in just his second snap against the Longhorns.

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Martinez was against a defensive front from Houston, who ranked among the top 10 in sacks in the nation last season, against a planned early-round NFL draft pick in Army’s Andre Carter and the Longhorns’ four-star defensive line talents put into action.

“He’s playing against guys who are superior to him in terms of sport and he just trusts his team and his technique,” said Traylor. “Frankie has this affable mindset. He has this underdog role. He likes being doubted. … He’s an unsung hero who’s always put in a situation and finds a way to show himself.”

Traylor admits the Roadrunners were pushed out of their desired offense and helped out Martinez and new left tackle Venly Tatafu by adding tight ends and running backs for protection. Establishing a downhill run game has been challenging at times, and UTSA has steered clear of slow-developing downfield passes.

But the blocking has held up under the circumstances, racking up eight sacks in three games to rank below average nationally, but not to the point of being a liability.

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