All eyes are on Kamal Martin this fall as he enters his senior season on the Division I gridiron at the University of Minnesota.

The 2016 Burnsville High School graduate is on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the nation's top linebacker.

Martin is also on a short list for a roster spot for the Senior Bowl, a postseason all-star game in January every year in Alabama that showcases players who have completed their college eligibility.

Minnesota has had 40 players compete in the Senior Bowl in program history, the most recent being Damarius Travis in 2017.

Martin enters his senior year with the Gophers having made 111 tackles in 37 career games. The 6-foot-3 245-pounder has recorded 10.5 tackles for a loss, including 2.5 career sacks.

Martin also has had two career interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Last season, Martin had 59 tackles (34 solo) for the Gophers. He recorded a career-high 10 tackles in a loss at Nebraska in Big Ten play.

However, Martin missed the Gophers' 34-10 victory over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl after being suspended for the game for a violation of team rules.

In his first season with the Gophers, Martin made an immediate impact on defense. He played in 12 games, making 59 tackles and breaking up a couple passes. In his sophomore season, Martin again played in 12 games, recording 42 tackles and getting his first collegiate interception. He also recorded two sacks.

A strong season from Martin in his final year on the Big 10 gridiron could mean his selection in the 2020 NFL Draft next April. He's ranked the No. 26 inside linebacker by drafttek.com.

Martin has been projected to go as high as the fifth round by some scouting services and in seventh round by others.

If Martin finds himself playing on Sundays, he would be the third Burnsville player to play in the NFL since 2016. CJ Smith, a 2011 Burnsville graduate, broke into the league with the Philadelphia Eagles as a cornerback in 2016 and also had brief stints with the Cleveland Browns (2017) and the Denver Broncos (2018).

Chase Roullier, a 2012 Burnsville graduate, is the starting center for the Washington Redskins. He was a sixth-round pick (199th overall) in the 2017 NFL draft. He was a backup his first season with the team before earning the starting job last year.

In his career at Burnsville, Martin earned all-state honors in his senior year by the Minnesota Associated Press. He helped the Blaze to a 9-2 overall record and the program's first state berth since 1995. The Blaze lost 32-14 to Maple Grove in the 2015 Class 6A state quarterfinals.

Martin was a two-way player for Burnsville, playing quarterback and safety. His selection as first-team all-state reflected his ability to play on both sides of the ball. He was named as the all-purpose, all-state player.

Martin completed 63 of 117 passes for 877 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception for Burnsville in his final year. He also ran for 400 yards on 88 carries and eight touchdowns.

Defensively, Martin finished with 79 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception and 13 pass breakups.

For more on Martin and the Gophers go to gophersports.com. Minnesota will open the 2019 season Aug. 29 at home against South Dakota.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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