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How an FBI tip helped bring LJ Martin to BYU

Here is the how and why the BYU freshman from Texas ended up at BYU after originally committing to Stanford.

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Brigham Young Cougars running back LJ Martin (27) runs past Cincinnati Bearcats defensive back Taj Ward (15).

BYU running back LJ Martin looks for an opening against Cincinnati at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. The Texas native will return to the Lone Star State Saturday to play TCU in Fort Worth.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

John and Genevieve Martin both work for the FBI in El Paso, Texas. So does a co-worker who, after watching their son LJ de-commit from Stanford last November, decided to make his best pitch for BYU.


Cougars on the air

BYU (1-1, 4-1)
at TCU (1-2, 3-3)
Oct. 14, 1:30 p.m. MDT
Amon G. Carter Stadium
(Capacity: 50,000)
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

“He asked my mom if her son would want to go to BYU,” Martin said. “I don’t know how it all happened, but he had to be connected somehow. When BYU reached out a few hours later, their co-worker said, ‘You have to go! You just have gotta go!’ So, my dad said, ‘All right, we’ll give it a chance.’”

Martin became a fan of Tyler Allgeier during his run at BYU but that is where his interest ended. He and his family made a visit to Provo, and they were impressed enough by head coach Kalani Sitake to join the Cougars.

The freshman showed up for practice in August, and after injuries to Hinckley Ropati and Aidan Robbins, Martin was named BYU’s starting running back prior to the third game of the season at Arkansas. He rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks, including an electrifying 45-yard run in the first quarter.

“Just coming in here, you always dream of being the starting running back. For it to actually happen, it is a blessing,” Martin said. “Give credit to those guys (in the running backs room) for preparing me.”

The homecoming

Martin returns to his home state to play football on Saturday when BYU visits TCU (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN). It will be his first game in the Lone Star State since last November’s 5A Division II playoff battle when Abilene Wylie outlasted his Canutillo squad, 21-18.

In the first half alone, Martin rushed for 166 yards and scored a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and, while playing defense, made an interception. Martin scored a third touchdown in the second half and finished with 200 yards on the ground.

Even with more family members in the stands than normal, the youngster is approaching his return like an upperclassman.

“It’s just the same thing every week,” he said. “I’m excited for this game. I’m excited to go out there and play.”

Stanford to BYU

As Martin rode the team bus back to El Paso following Canutillo’s playoff defeat last Nov. 26, he anticipated his next game would be at Stanford. The long-time Cardinal commit had no idea that BYU was in the process of handing coach David Shaw his final defeat as the Stanford head coach.

“I didn’t even watch that game. I had just played my last high school game and was on the bus ride home,” he said. “I didn’t even know if they had won or lost the next day. I was just in my world.”

BYU rushed for 358 yards and beat the Cardinal 35-26. Shaw resigned the following day. For Martin, it wasn’t Shaw’s departure that shook him from Stanford, it was when running backs coach Ron Gould left for the same job with the Los Angeles Rams.

“Coach Gould was my guy,” Martin said. “When he went to the Rams, I started looking around to try and find the right spot for me.”

This is when the FBI got involved. That suggestion from a co-worker triggered Martin’s thinking about BYU, which led to a phone call, then a visit to campus, and on Saturday, a return to Texas as the Cougars’ lead back.

“Things just fell into place,” said Martin as he looked back on the last 11 months of his life and credited his faith as the glue that has held everything together.

“It’s been extremely important. Just waking up and praying every day and thanking God for the day he has given me,” he said. “Thanking him for the opportunities he has given me and just being grateful in that way and knowing that he has a plan for me and just trusting him throughout it all.”

BYU running back LJ Martin celebrates his touchdown at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

BYU running back LJ Martin (27) celebrates his touchdown at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

You can see Dave McCann’s interview with LJ Martin Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on BYUtv’s “Gameday” program, including the play by Tyler Allgeier that turned Martin into a fan and foreshadowed his own surprising run at BYU.