Ingle Martin is questionable for CPA's football opener — for a wonderful reason | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean

The football coach in Ingle Martin has reached the season’s first game week.

But the dad in him, well, he has no choice. He’s doing what it seems everyone at Christ Presbyterian Academy – from his boss to his assistant coaches to his players – has been telling Martin he must do.

Which is to leave here.

Because he simply has to be there.

In Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, the 12-and-under baseball team from Nolensville will play its first game in the 2022 Little League World Series. Wright Martin, the team’s 12-year-old first baseman, is the oldest son of former University of Alabama softball player Jennifer Martin and her husband, CPA's football coach.

First baseman Wright Martin (front row, third from left), son of CPA football coach Ingle Martin, celebrates alongside Nolensville's 12-and-under baseball team, which is headed back to the Little League World Series.

Coach Martin is planning to drive to Pennsylvania on Tuesday while his Lions continue prepping for Friday night’s opener against Independence.

"Our whole program, everything that we've done at CPA has always been about growing them into being great husbands and great fathers one day,” Martin said. “… So everyone is kind of now throwing it all back in my face and saying, 'All right, you're a dad before you're a coach and an athletic director.’”

Steve Haywood, a long-time assistant for Martin who spent last season as coach at Lakeway Christian near Knoxville, is back on staff and would take over as CPA's coach in Martin’s absence.

If Nolensville's team wins Wednesday at the LLWS, it’d play again Friday afternoon, which would remove any shot for Martin to be on the sideline that night.

If Nolensville loses its first game, it wouldn’t play again until Saturday night – meaning Martin could perhaps drive to the Philadelphia airport and take a round-trip flight back to Nashville on Thursday and then return after the football game.

"There is a scenario where I'll be back here for the game Friday,” Martin said, “but it's the scenario that you wish wouldn't happen. Hard to know for sure. … Unfortunately, we don't have a Learjet to get us back and forth every day. But I think if COVID taught us anything, it taught us how to operate and work remotely.”

CPA's head coach Ingle Martin on the field during a time out in the game against Lipscomb Academy on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Chattanooga during the DII-AA TSSAA BlueCross Bowl Championship game.

Martin’s is a well-known sports name in Middle Tennessee, but his mark was made in football, not baseball – which he did play until high school.

A star quarterback at Montgomery Bell Academy, Martin played in college at Florida and Furman before a run in the NFL, including a stint with the Tennessee Titans. He was hired in 2011 – at age 28 – to take over CPA’s program.

He has since directed the Lions to a trio of Division II-AA state titles, most recently in 2020. The Lions, it seems, are good every year.

The same could be said of Nolensville’s Little League program, which is making a return trip to the LLWS. Wright Martin wasn’t on last year’s team, though. According to his dad, he joined the current roster knowing only one other player.

“Now he’s got kids that I think he’ll be close to for the rest of his life,” Coach Martin said.

The Nolensville club already has traveled to Williamsport. Upon arrival, parents were sent word that the team was eating pizza and socializing with a team from Mexico.

The upcoming LLWS games – like the preceding regionals – are going to be nationally televised, which both of Wright’s parents experienced in their athletic careers, too.

“He thought it was really cool,” Martin said. “But I think Wright has heard enough from his mother and me: 'Just, man, you're 12 years old. Go out and enjoy this. Life actually gets a lot better than 12-year-old baseball.' We tell our kids here in high school, ‘Life gets better than high school football.’

“We really hope that these kids – and my 12-year-old and my 10-year-old – that they’ll grow up knowing that what kind of husband and father you are is far more important than anything you ever accomplish as an individual.”

Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.