Senior Spring: Ben Martin prepares for career in Major League Lacrosse

by William Owen | 5/19/20 2:05am

ben_martin_lacrosse
Source: Courtesy of Ben Martin '20

Ben Martin ’20’s path to collegiate lacrosse nearly brought him to Lehigh University. Martin was committed to play for the Mountain Hawks until his junior year of high school, when Lehigh’s defensive coordinator Brendan Callahan was hired as head coach for the Big Green.

“[Martin] was actually one of my first phone calls,” Callahan said. “I told him, ‘Hey listen, if there’s one guy I want to build a program around, it’s you, and I’d love to have you come up here to check the place out’ … He was my first commitment here as the new head coach.” 

From the time Martin began playing lacrosse in second grade, he’d seen the sport as a potential avenue to acceptance into a top-tier academic school. Once he visited Hanover, he didn’t need much convincing to come play for the Big Green.

“Knowing Dartmouth’s reputation academically, I went to visit my junior summer,” Martin said. “It was beautiful, and I met a couple of guys on the team. They were really cool guys, I really enjoyed my time with them and I just loved being on campus.”

Martin was a crucial recruit for Callahan, who was trying to rebuild a Big Green program that was struggling to stay afloat, going 20-47 in the five years before Callahan’s tenure. Callahan hoped that Martin would bring focus and drive to a program that he said was lacking both. When Martin finally set foot on campus as a freshman, his impact was immediate. 

“Right away, he was one of our best players,” Callahan said. “He’s been a four-year starter for us, and it’s very rare to have a kid who can come in and contribute from day one … He came in as an engineer, and I was just really impressed that he could handle his heavy academic load plus a social life.”

True to his hyper-focused nature, Martin is lauded by his coaches as being direct and transparent. When asked about his own game, Martin keeps it simple: “[I’m] just a right-handed player who plays really hard and tries to run past people to the goal.”

While it’s tough to get Martin to brag about himself, his teammates have no difficulty finding words to praise him. 

“He’s a leader, warrior and a great competitor,” attacker Parker Joyce ’21 said. “From day one when I met him, I knew he was a leader … and that's stayed true.”

Martin’s impact was felt as much on the scoresheet as it was in the locker room. During his career with the Big Green, Martin tallied 82 goals and 28 assists. In his standout junior season, Martin led the team with a career-high 42 points, making him the first Dartmouth player to collect more than 40 points in a single season since 2012. His accomplishments that year were all the more impressive considering that he was nursing a severe injury for most of the season.

“He did it all with a set of cracked ribs,” Callahan said. “He could hardly practice because he was in so much pain during the week. I think that’s it — he cares so much about his teammates and the school and this program that he’s willing to play with cracked ribs and still has the ability to show up and perform … He’s definitely set the standard for toughness within our program.”

No one questions whether Martin is driven, focused or tough. He’s more than proven his mettle to his peers and coaches. But both teammates and mentors have noticed that beneath a battle-hardened exterior, Martin has an uncommon capacity for empathy and compassion.

“Not only does he do an incredible job leading the team, but he cares a lot about individual relationships with guys and he's always asking guys how they're feeling,” Joyce said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended the Big Green’s 2020 season, it seemed that years of hard work by Callahan, Martin and the rest of the squad were finally paying off. The Big Green started red-hot with a three-game win streak, including a victory over Bryant University, which Dartmouth had never beaten.

“When we won that game by two or three, I was just ecstatic, I had tears of joy in my eyes,” Martin said. “It really cemented a lot of the hard work that we put in from the offseason … It just showed that we were working really hard and actually making a difference to the Dartmouth men’s lacrosse program.” 

Though disappointed that he was not able to continue what promised to be a turnaround season for the Big Green, Martin isn’t ready to hang up his cleats. After consulting with his coaches, he made the decision to enter the Major League Lacrosse draft. On May 4, Martin was selected 20th overall by the Connecticut Hammerheads, making him only the 10th player in Dartmouth history to be drafted into the MLL.

“It was really just a crapshoot as to whether I’d get picked or not, but I dropped my name in the hat and waited patiently and was very fortunate to be selected,” Martin said.

While he is excited to start a new chapter in his lacrosse career, Martin knows that it’s going to be difficult to put on a new uniform. 

“I’ll never be able to suit up with [Dartmouth] again … That’s something I’ll never be able to get back,” Martin said. “We’ll never — all 44 of us — all be together again. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”