September 5, 2017
Sept. 5, 2017
By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. – If you watched Auburn’s win over Georgia Southern on Saturday or even if you saw the box score later, you probably saw that sophomore running back Kam Martin had a sensational performance with 136 yards rushing and a touchdown.
What you might not have seen was the struggle that Martin endured in the week leading up to the game.
It wasn’t a typical game week — not when a hurricane ravages your hometown, leaving your immediate family stuck in their house for days and taking the life of your great aunt who wasn’t able to receive medical attention for a pre-existing condition. That feeling of excitement you get leading up to the first game was replaced by worry and a sense of helplessness.
So when Martin took the field Saturday, it didn’t matter that he hadn’t slept all week or that he was thrust into action sooner than expected. He felt a responsibility to show out.
“When my opportunity came, I just had to put on for my city and my family,” Martin said.
Rescuers, some trained first responders and others volunteers, help evacuate in Port Arthur, Texas, Martin’s hometown. Mandatory Credit: Nick Oza via USA TODAY NETWORK
It started raining Friday in Port Arthur, Texas, and that’s all Martin’s family expected would happen. They say they were never told to evacuate. But the rain kept coming and when Hurricane Harvey eventually passed over the city the following week, the electricity went out and the bottom of the sky fell out.
“It was nerve-wrecking,” said Marion Harris, Martin’s mother. “It was scary. All of the things that you can think of, that’s what it was. It was terrible.
“When the water kept going over my step and we couldn’t get in the garage to the car — we lost our car — I said ‘I don’t care what anybody says. This is not normal. This is a hurricane.’ I think they all kind of predicted wrong.”
At its peak, Harris estimated that the water levels reached six feet in the house. She and her family were stuck with no electricity, a diminishing supply of food and no way of leaving.
Not far away was Sarah Henry, Martin’s great aunt. She, too, was stuck in her house and because of the flooding, nobody could get to her, nor could she leave to make her daily dialysis appointments. As a result, she passed away on Wednesday.
“At one point in time, I was just crying because my aunt passed away and then my whole city’s flooded,” Martin said. “It’s been tough. I’ve just been praying to God just to keep me on the right track.”
Harris could tell her son was distraught. She could hear it in his voice. So when the rain finally stopped and the water subsided to the point where she and her husband could drive his work truck, they left for Auburn and drove through the night Thursday. She wasn’t about to miss her son’s game. She hadn’t missed one since his Pop Warner days.
“We kind of just went on a prayer and left, and we made it,” Harris said.
It’s a good thing she did. Had she not come, she might have missed one of her son’s most memorable games. And while Martin might have rushed for more yards and touchdowns in last year’s Alabama A&M game, Saturday’s game was more special because of everything going on around the family and around the city of Port Arthur.
“I was so happy,” Harris said. “I could tell that he had been kind of stressed and worried about everybody, worried about the city. I was glad for him the night of the game.”
Fellow Texas native Jarrett Stidham was also happy to see his teammate do so well in spite of everything he had endured leading up to the game.
“Kam’s gone through a lot this week, more than a lot of people know,” Stidham said. “I can’t even fathom really what he’s going through — just with Port Arthur and his family — it’s pretty heartbreaking stuff. But he stepped up [Saturday]. He was locked in all week regardless of what was happening back home. He stepped up in a big way tonight, and I was super happy for him.”
Martin’s mindset hasn’t changed, though. Just keep getting better.
“I’m just ready to step when my number is called,” he said. “I’m just ready to keep getting better each and every week.”
On Sunday, as Martin turned his focus to Clemson, Harris and her husband returned to Port Arthur to a house still without power and still without food. She had to clean out the ice box and the freezer, and as of Monday evening, she had yet to make it to the grocery store.
With reality setting in, Harris knows she’s not going to be able to attend the Clemson game this Saturday. She wants to be there more than anything, but it’s simply not realistic at this point. In fact, it might be a while before she’s able to return to another one of her son’s games.
“I was looking at the schedule, and I’m not sure what game I’ll be back for,” Harris said. “I just don’t know. It’s a tough process right now. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
But Harris was there Saturday night. She watched her son do what he loves and do it well, and in spite of all the lows the past week had brought to her and her family, there was a moment of happiness, a moment where she could temporarily forget what was going on back home.
“That made it real special,” Martin said.
Aug 31, 2017l Port Arthur, TX, USA; A view of flood waters after Hurricane Harvey. Mandatory Credit: Nick Oza-USA TODAY