The long snapper doesn’t usually get mentioned on football broadcasts. Unless he fires the ball over the punter’s head.
That might be about to change on the Fighting Illini Sports Network. Former Illini long snapper Michael Martin is joining the broadcast team as a sideline reporter. He will work with play-by-play voice Brian Barnhart and analyst Martin O’Donnell.
Martin, a Centennial and Illinois graduate, will handle home games for now. Going on the road is an option for later.
“I’m very, very excited and I’m very nervous,” Martin said. “Because I went to school to be an engineer and I didn’t train for this. I will be a fish out of water, but I’m really looking forward to attacking the process and putting myself in a position to get better.”
Martin’s day job is with Champaign’s II-VI EpiWorks. His company is supportive of his radio work.
“There are plenty of Illinois football fans on the staff here,” Martin said. “My manager was a baseball player at the University of Michigan in the early ’90s. He’s a big sports fan and has been very supportive of me pursuing this.”
Martin sought advice from O’Donnell and former sideline reporter Carey Davis, who left the job to become a high school coach.
What did they tell him?
“Don’t swear, say what I see and keep your eye out and pay attention to the game,” Martin said.
At halftime, Martin will briefly interview Illinois coach Lovie Smith.
Being behind the microphone isn’t new to Martin. He makes regular appearances on WDWS’ “SportsTalk.” He was a guest of the show Thursday.
Besides his sideline work, Martin will take part in the local pregame show on WDWS — look for the stage inside Grange Grove this season — and also help with the postgame show.
On to my weekend recommendations:
Wisconsin at South Florida, 6 p.m., ESPN
Illinois fans know all about the Bulls, who beat their favorite team the past two seasons. You should never miss a chance to watch Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor run.
“Bridesmaids,” 8 p.m., Bravo
Somehow, T.O.T.M. has never watched this comedy classic. Time to correct a wrong. Melisa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph star in the film, which scored 90 percent positive reviews according to Rottentomatoes.com.
“How It Really Happened With Hill Harper,” 8 p.m., HLN
The series, in its fourth season, takes a look back at the 2007 disappearance of Stacy Peterson, wife of veteran police officer Drew Peterson. He is prison for the death of his third wife.