Good things come to those who wait.
They also come to those who put in hard work and are blessed with elite physical talent, and Arizona State senior linebacker Steffon Martin falls under both categories.
As a member of the 2012 recruiting class, Martin came to Tempe with some impressive credentials on his resume from his time at Arizona Western College. He quickly found his way into the lineup, appearing in all 13 games including 10 starts, at the SAM linebacker position.
Playing in ASU's attacking scheme is ideal for nearly any linebacker, and Martin enjoyed being a part of such a talented and accomplished unit.
While he was an important piece of a Sun Devil defense that led the nation in tackles-for-loss and finished second in sacks, Martin's production fell short of many pre-season expectations. He made just 27 tackles on the year, ninth-most on the team, with 6.5 of those coming for loss. He also added a sack and a fumble recovery.
While the leap from the junior college level to the Pac-12 could have fazed some players, Martin took the transition in stride.
"It's a pretty solid conference. They can run, pass, play good defense," Martin said. "I think, overall, it's the most balanced conference."
Now four months removed from the season, Martin looks back at his major college football debut as a learning experience, both as a player and a person.
"Off the field, it was maturing and learning how to deal with society and how people are on a bigger stage of life. On the field, it was how important your eyes and your feet are, technique-wise."
Along with his participation in the intensive conditioning program instituted by strength coach Shawn Griswold, Martin's feet were the primary source of his offseason work.
"My feet sometimes are too shattery, or just going too fast, and it takes me out of the play," said Martin. "This whole spring, I worked on my feet. I definitely improved. I only have room to get better. Now I'm just looking to get my eyes and feet even better."
Another boon to Martin and the rest of the Sun Devil defense is time. This is now the second year of the coaching staff and the defensive system, and familiarity breeds speed. Speed in recognition, speed in diagnosing, and speed in playmaking.
"We're making more plays because we know what we're doing," Martin said. "When you know what you're doing, you make plays faster, and you make more plays more often."
One of the few major losses to the defense left a hole right next to Martin. Brandon Magee, the face of Sun Devil football, has moved on to the NFL, and the void left by Magee stretches passed the WILL linebacker spot that is now up for grabs. Beyond being an All-Pac-12 performer, Magee was also the inspirational leader of the defense.
"B-Magee was a great dude," Martin remembers. "He really taught me a lot, and made me grow up fast. It's going to be hard to replace B-Magee, but next man up. We all got to step up and unite as a team."
But does that stepping up include Martin taking on some of Magee's leadership duties?
"Definitely. I try to lead the LBs as best I can. Obviously, Will Sutton is our leader. Look what the guys does on the field. But yeah, I'm definitely stepping up to help the linebackers."
Another change to the unit occurred with their coach. After Ron West left the team to join Larry Fedora's staff at North Carolina, ASU made a few moves on the defensive staff. The Sun Devils brought in Jackie Shipp to coach the defensive line, which resulted in defensive coordinator Paul Randolph, who had overseen the line in 2012, moving back a level to coach the linebackers. It's a move that gets Martin's stamp of approval.
"Coach Randolph is a good dude," Martin said. "A God-fearing man. Helps me off the field more than on the field, so it was real good working with him as he is really hands on."
With his final season of college football quickly approaching, Martin's primary goal for this fall is straightforward.
"One-hundred tackles or more. Plain and simple."
But he also sees those tackles as being part of larger team success in 2013.
"I definitely think we should dominate. We have nine starters back on defense, I believe. We have better chemistry now. We have more guys getting the Pat Tillman jerseys. Carl and I need to get one, and Anthony Jones.
"I definitely think we're going to have a good year."