More than just a football player

Athlete feature



Former Panther quarterback Nate Martens proves that each athlete is much more than just their sport.

As a 6-foot-3, 260-pound quarterback for the University of Northern Iowa, Nate Martens plays a physical, sometimes violent, sport. Yet Martens puts the Serenity Prayer at the forefront of everything he does, even if he does not consider himself the most religious person.

The prayer goes “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

“The Serenity Prayer has always been something I value and remember,” Martens said. The difference referenced in the prayer is the difference between knowing what is in your control and what is not. “Having the wisdom to know the difference is probably the hardest part, yet it is what keeps me sane most days,” Martens said.

Martens learned this way of thinking when he was struggling with football at a young age. At that time, his school had just gotten a new coach and the coach brought a new quarterback with him who took over Martens’ position. Martens quickly learned that he had to accept the new circumstances for what they were. As Martens has grown, he has used this wisdom in many facets of life, such as work, school and friendship. One of the ways Martens has used this prayer in his adult life is through caring for others and helping them find the wisdom to know the difference.

“I will always care for another person,” said Martens. That is partially why he has chosen to study psychology at UNI. Martens, a redshirt sophomore in terms of athletic eligibility, but a senior academically, chose his major as a freshman. He settled on psychology because he liked it in high school and he “wanted to help others.” Once Martens is done with his undergraduate career, he plans to either use his studies in psychology and his certificate in industrial organizational psychology to enter the human resource community, or go to graduate school and study communication. Either way, Martens knows that the right path is ahead of him, even if it is not fully paved yet.

Martens attributes a lot of his openness and caring to growing up in St. Louis, where “a lot of things were ever-changing.” In other words, St. Louis is a city of constant change and development. “St. Louis is so big that I was able to meet people of all kinds and do activities of all kinds, if I wanted,” he said. Martens gave an example of how big, and how it is possible to meet new people everyday in St. Louis when he said, “I could go back now and still meet people I have never even seen before.” 

Martens was constantly learning new things as he grew up, and still is. Martens said he keeps an open mindset in everything he does. He values learning from others, no matter the person and their label. Martens’ philosophical side showed when he said, “taking the actual material and the content of anything is more important than the person it is coming from.”

Although Martens knows the importance of choosing what material to take from others, and who to take it from, Martens said his dad, Chris Martens, has had a huge impact on him. Martens and his dad spent a lot of time on the road together going on recruiting visits, which meant they always had something to talk about. “Something I always talk with my dad about is the Serenity Prayer,” Martens said. Two of Martens’ most memorable trips with his dad are when they spontaneously decided to go to Niagara Falls while they were looking at a college in New York and when they had some “really good food in Boston.”  Almost as if it was straight from a movie, the father and son share a bond over food, football and fun.

While football and competing in athletics have always been a great part of Martens’ life, there is more to him than sports. Martens understands that “there’s a lot of stuff going on in our lives that not everyone sees.” Do not let Martens’ football stature get in the way of getting to know him. If there was one thing more people should know about Martens, it is that if people take the time to get to know him, they might see more than just a football player.  Martens is a humble guy, and when it comes to talking about himself, he becomes a man of few words. “I never think ‘Oh I’m going to care for this person.’ It’s kind of just an instinctual thing,” said Martens.