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February 16, 2012

Arlington Martin becoming pipeline to TCU

Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager feels he's gained a wealth of knowledge studying TCU's program for the last 15 years.

Wager makes the short drive to the TCU campus as often as he can to take in a practice or game, learning as he goes.

"Being relatively close, it was always a great place to go visit and study and try and learn and over a period of time," Wager said. "It's too close not to go and use it as a resource."

But for as much as he said he's received, he's indirectly given just as much back to the Horned Frogs' program.

Wager, known in the high school ranks for being able to develop otherwise run-of-the-mill players into college-ready talent, has sent 40 players on to the next level during his six-year tenure at Martin. Four of those ended up at TCU.

First was linebacker Kris Gardner, who posted 29 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and three pass breakups for the Frogs last season.

Then there was Deryck Gildon, who made a solid impact as a freshman last season, recording 21 tackles and two blocked kicks.

Two weeks ago, Martin sent arguably its best high school prospect in school history in All-American four-star recruit Devonte Fields, as well as kicker Jaden Oberkrom to the campus just 15 minutes down the road.

Gildon's enthusiasm towards the program and performance in TCU's spring game last season helped seal the deal for Fields.

"We went to watch Deryck and Devonte was on the field," Wager said,

"Deryck had a great game. He ended up intercepting a ball at midfield and ran it back 40 yards for the winning score. And there's Devonte - standing on the sideline watching this happen.

"We were talking to Deryck and people were coming up, asking him for his autograph. As all of this is happening I am watching Deryck but I am also watching Devonte and (his recruitment) was over at that moment."

Since moving from New York in 1997 to take the head coaching job at Tolar, Wager has taken an annual trip to TCU to take in practice and learn some new tricks from the Frogs staff.

He helps host an annual clinic on the Fort Worth campus and has a unique tie to the Frogs' coaching staff.

"A few years ago, they reshuffled their recruiting areas and Rusty Burns started to recruit Martin," Wager said.

"Well, Rusty is a Springfield College graduate and so am I. If you have aspirations of being a coach or in the athletic profession and you live in the northeast part of the country, you go to Springfield College.

"While it's a small school, it puts out a bunch of coaches and that fraternity is pretty tight. So a Springfield grad recruiting Martin, there is obviously a tie there."

Wager said Gardner and Gildon are on Martin's campus quite often, chatting up the current players on the advantages of staying right in their back yard.

"There's some familiarity when those kids come back on our campus and they share the experience they are having 15 minutes down the road - it's tough to beat," Wager said.

"I don't ever try and influence kids one way or the other in regards to where they go. But to have an opportunity to play at one of the premier college football programs in the country and do it 12 miles down the road, that's a pretty unique opportunity."

TCU fans are hoping the number of Martin grads to become Horned Frogs elevates to five after the 2013 signing class by adding running back Kyle Hicks, who holds an offer from TCU as well as from Texas, Baylor and several others.


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