Coach J.D. Martin
 

 

 

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"When our buddy became our coach" by George Brose


   J.D. came to OU to pole vault, but probably could have played basketball or football as well. Erick, OK was his hometown and the big guy played a mean guitar. Legend has it that Mike Lindsay, a world class shot putter on the team, had fun sticking guys head first into the high trash cans in Jefferson House. The only guy he didn't mess with was J.D. J.D. also went by the name Goose, probably after Goose Tatum of Harlem Globetrotters fame who could palm basketballs quite nicely. Ma Smalley who ran the kitchen at Jeff House dining hall just called him John David Martin. Ma was grandma to all the guys on the teams and was fondly remembered by Dennis Weaver when he played the role of Chester on "Gunsmoke" , a popular TV western in the late 50's and early 60's when he would say , "You won't lose any weight eatin' at Ma Smalley's".

   I saw J. D. the first time when I went to see the team compete in a triangular at Indiana U. with U. of Kentucky. J.D. was said to be the biggest guy ever to clear 15 feet on a steel vaulting pole. It took enormous strength in those days to be a pole vaulter. The fibre glass technology was too primitive then to build a pole that could hold J.D. and didn't weigh 100 pounds. When the gymnasts started going over 16 feet and approached 17, J.D. had to resort to other areas of track as well. He was a very good hurdler and learned the other events in the decathalon. He was Pan Am champ in 1963 and was a favorite to make the 64 Olympic team when Bill decided to get out of coaching. J. D. seemed to be the choice to take over, but it meant giving up his Olympic dream. The rest is history. Thirty plus years as head coach at OU and now six years out of retirmement, starting to coach women's cross country at Central Oklahoma. I was a senior on J.D.'s first team. When I would see him in later years, he always remembered us as too hard to discipline, because he'd been partying with us as teammates and didn't think he could tell us to behave.. Times got better quickly in those first years, as the young group of sprinters got J.D. his first national 4x440 championships and Billy Calhoun won the indoor 440 and tied for it in another year. I remember it happened when I was in Tanzania in the Peace Corps and he sent me a two page handwritten letter describing every leg of the race. It's good to see J.D. still going strong and keeping a hand in coaching after 40 years. There's plenty of space here for some of you guys to fill in a lot more.



 

 

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