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Thanks to a mixup on who was wearing what jersey, Dave Martini did not, initially, get credit for his three tries against SFGG, or his equally electric play against OMBAC.
|The Player of the Week Award is brought to you by Rhino Rugby, makers of high-quality, made-in-America rugby balls, rucking pads, tackle bags, and scrum machines.|
But RUGBYMag has largely corrected that error, and looked more closely at
this former wide receiver who keeps scoring tries for Santa Monica.
Martini was on the UCLA football team for two seasons before switching to rugby.
"I wanted to focus on my studies and football took a huge amount of time," Martini explained. "It was an awesome experience. I felt I deserved to be there and competed well with players who a now making Pro Bowls, but I had done it. I knew I was not going to the NFL. I was going to be a student and be a professional, and at the same time I still wanted to play a sport."
Martini's brother had played rugby at Claremont Colleges in his final spring after playing four years of football, and had loved it. His encouragement got Dave to practice. The UCLA players did the rest.
"The super guys I met at UCLA and the compassion they had for me playing my first game – where I was probably offside the entire game – was amazing," Martini told RUGBYMag.com. "I had a great time, and while the transition was not seamless, I brought some things to the team that helped. I could run, I could tackle, and learned the rules."
One of the biggest adjustments for Martini and, he says, any football player, is realizing that in football the sideline is your friend on offense, in rugby it is not.
"As a receiver you catch the ball, run downfield and you can go out of bounds, avoid the hit, and your team keeps the ball," Martini said. "I learned that didn't work in rugby."
Eventually UCLA Head Coach Scott Stewart switched Martini to flanker, where he became an All American.
"Being a flanker was great for learning to understand the flow of the game," he said. "You're always active, you're involved in a lot of the game, and I thought the decision to move me to the forward pack – I thought it was a demotion at first – was a wise decision."
His first game at flanker Martini scored five tries.
Now in club rugby, Martini spent a little time finding his place. Tall and strong, he doesn't have the all-out bulk to necessarily be the ideal flanker in men's rugby, but he had the speed to play wing. After settling down with his job and new club, he had to then find the right position.
"Santa Monica is a really competitive club, and we've got great coaching, and it's worked out really well," he said. "I found a home on the wing. I have good enough speed and size to play there and, given the time I have to spend in the gym, it's good that I'm not tackling the big guys 30 times a game. Last year I was beaten out by other guys for starting positions. It was tough. But I used it as a learning experience and after I had a pretty solid 7s campaign I realize I can do this."
Martini is elusive, has very good hands, and can run. He uses his wide receiver skills well, and has become a go-to scorer for Santa Monica as a result.
Now he just needs to see the team win more.
"I think it's a mentality thing," he said. "We're talented, we're very well coached, and we're fit. When we won against Denver it showed we can win in a dogfight, even when we're struggling for possession. Man for man this is the best team I've seen. I think we have the ability to rip teams apart. We just need to have the right mentality."
Dave Martini is our RUGBYMag.com / Rhino Rugby Player of the Week. At least we have his name down now.