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Giants Sign Hopatcong's Joe Martinek

Former Rutgers running back inks free agent contract with defending Super Bowl champs after going undrafted.

"Jersey" Joe Martinek is staying in New Jersey.

The state's all-time leading high school rusher was one of 10 undrafted free agents to sign with the New York Giants soon after the NFL Draft ended Saturday night. The former Rutgers rusher April 12.

Martinek said he looked forward to proving himself—a battle he's grown accustom to fighting since rushing for a state record 7,589 yards and 80 touchdowns before graduating from in 2007 and working his way off the Scarlet Knights' practice squad.

"It's just another challenge, another step," he said. "I'm part of another team now and now I have to establish myself again."

Martinek hopes to become the second Hopatcong graduate to play in the NFL. The New York Jets drafted former borough resident and Temple lineman David Yovanovits in the seventh round in 2003. Yovanovits also played with the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.

The Giants beat out three other teams that were in the running late Saturday for Martinek, who scored 17 touchdowns while rushing 391 times for 1,770 yards while playing running back and fullback the Scarlet Knights.

The Houston Texans, Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—coached by former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano—each had contacted the 23-year-old in the days leading up to the draft and immediately after it.

But Martinek said the impression the Giants made during his workout separated them from the other potential suitors.

"It's close to home and, plus, the feeling when I went there—everyone was just so nice to me," said Martinek, who added he spoke with Giants running backs coach Jerald Ingram Saturday. "Everybody knew me. There was just a happy-go-lucky feeling throughout the [Timex Performance Center]. The winning feeling they had was something I wanted to be a part of."

Martinek said not getting drafted in the late rounds might have been a blessing.

"I was able to pick," he said. "Instead of getting a team that probably wasn't the best situation for me, I got to choose where I would be in the best situation. I got lucky with that."

That the pre-draft process had finally ended was the biggest relief to Martinek, who led Hopatcong to a 2006 state championship before being named Gatorade State Player of the Year.

"It was crazy," said Martinek, whose at Rutgers' pro day grabbed the attention of scouts. "It was very stressful and I'm glad that it's over now. I hate not knowing. Now I have a clear head and peace of mind."

That, actually, was what Martinek spent much of Saturday afternoon chasing. The 5-foot-11, 224-pounder traveled to Farmstead Golf & Country Club with his brother, Michael, and two friends. Martinek said he didn't want to give himself the chance to obsess over the draft on TV.

The group returned to Martinek's home near the end of the seventh round, which was when teams considering signing him after he draft began racketing up their pursuit, Martinek said.

And after talking it through with his family and agent Don Henderson, Martinek made his decision.

"He walked into the room and said, 'I'm a New York Giant," his mother, Roxanne, said. "It was just an incredible feeling."

Joe Martinek Sr., the running back's father, said his son would flourish with the Giants, who are looking to fill the hole left by the departure of running back Brandon Jacobs to San Francisco. New York drafted speedy running back David Wilson of Virginia Tech with the last pick in the first round Thursday.

"I believe in Joe," the elder Martinek said. "I've always believed in Joe."

Said Michael Martinek, "To see him have his dreams come true, it's just amazing."

Moe April 29, 2012 at 12:39 AM
This is great! Congratulations Joe!! All of us Giant's fans are extremely happy for you!
Tammy April 29, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Best of Luck to you Joe!!!
laura mazza April 29, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Congrats Joe, very happy for you!
Jessica April 29, 2012 at 12:48 AM
So happy for you Joe!
Anna Lisa April 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Joe I remember the day when you were a freshmen at RU and you signed my R poster. You were humble, yet mature. You have worked hard to get where you are going. Keep up the great work and spirit. Congratulations! Go Giants!
Sue Hill April 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I remember Joe in middle school. I didn't have him as a student, but I remember that he was nominated as Class Athlete in the yearbook. Who knew? I guess his peers who voted for him did! Congratulations, Joe!
HopRes April 29, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Way to go Joe! Hopatcong is proud of our son!
Jim Bongiorno April 29, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Great going Joe. The town is really proud of you.
Mr. Confidential April 29, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Its a about time to hear something good coming out of hopatcong rather then someone overdosing
Jenny Kilgannon April 29, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Great news for Hopatcong and for NJ! Awesome to have a homegrown boy on Big Blue!!
Michele Greer-Gjelsvik April 29, 2012 at 10:23 AM
So happy for Joe and his family. Local kid, determined, hard worker, goal oriented living his dream, making them come true is exciting and an inspiration to all Hopatcong kid's. Way to lead by example. GO BIG BLUE!!!!
Laurie Cirasuolo April 29, 2012 at 11:02 AM
I'm so happy for all of you! xo
Joanne Flexser April 29, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Joe, I am so glad that you are one step closer to making your dream come true! Glad to see a fine young man give Hopatcong another source of pride. How lucky the Giants are!
Mary Clare April 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Cangratulations Joe! Way to go!!!
Denise Andreis April 29, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Congrats to Joe and your family! You have truly lead by example every step of the way! You are our pride and joy here in Hopatcong, and we will all continue to cheer you on. Go Big Blue! We love you Joe!
Danette Swanson April 29, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Awesome! Congratulations to you Joe & to your family!! You are such an inspiration to all of the youth proving that hard work & dedication truly prevail! May God Bless & watch over you as you continue to follow your dreams. The Swanson boys will surely be watching you ...Go Giants :)
LORETTA LYNCH April 29, 2012 at 03:36 PM
CONGRATULATIONS JOE! WE KNOW YOUR FAMILY IS PROUD, AS ALL OF HOPATCONG IS. GOD BLESS....MARTY AND LORETTA LYNCH
anna April 30, 2012 at 11:21 AM
YEAH JERSEY JOE!!!! GO GIANTS!!!! i am so proud of you joe. i am a fan! HOPATCONG IS PROUD! i am so glad for you.... GO BIG BLUE AS WELL!!! WHOO HOOOT
Bonge30 May 01, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Really Christy??? Wow - why the venom? You have issues with people congratulating one of our own on their accomoplishments? I'm sorry your life did not pan-out the way you wanted - but that's no reason to hate on others. You must be a sad lonely person - I'll pray for you.
amazed78 May 01, 2012 at 03:12 PM
WOW, youre probably one of those people who complain that there are to many drug addicts in your town. Instead of tell everyone to relax why dont you cheer him on and congratulate him on being one step closer to his dream.
Hookerman May 01, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Uh.... and how many NFL champion teams have you been signed with Christy???
christy anderson August 19, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I'm not even from Jersey and I wish the kid the best, I also think you are a jerk
Hookerman August 19, 2012 at 02:49 PM
So who saw the fantastic touchdown Martinek made last night where he hurdled a Jets defender??? That was great football!
Hookerman August 19, 2012 at 02:57 PM
BTW, here it is if you missed it; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rs0jU4bnVQ

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