It’s been said lightning never strikes in the same place twice. For Alabama soccer junior defender Nealy Martin, once was quite enough.
When she was in middle school, Martin and some of her friends went to her family lake house on Lake Martin. The group was tubing, then lightning hit the water near them.
“It just went through the water and struck us,” Martin said. “It just felt like a hammer hitting me in the head.”
While the odds of being struck by lightning are only about 1-in-3,000, the odds are a lot higher for someone growing up in Alabama to choose one of the two main schools in the state. For the Martin family, it was Auburn.
When she started her recruitment, Martin was focusing more on smaller schools, but she wanted to challenge herself by going to an SEC school. She took the visit to Alabama and realized this was the type of environment she wanted to be in.
“I talked with my club coach a lot,” Martin said. “He said that I should go here, and I was all about it.”
Martin and her club coach, Andrew Brower, still talk at least once a week. Brower watches almost all of Alabama’s games, and Martin seeks his advice on how to get better.
“He’s been there for me throughout my whole club experience.” Martin said. “… He helps me and just pushes me along.”
Martin has been a starter all three years at Alabama, which hosts Kentucky in an SEC match on Thursday. That experience has helped her gain confidence in herself and the confidence she needed to help lead the team on and off the field.
“Getting that experience has built a lot of confidence in me,” Martin said. “… Getting experience and confidence has carried over onto the field and allowed me to start leading the team and talking more.”
She plays right-center back but is on the attack whenever Alabama moves into the opposing team’s half. In her first two years, she took 18 shots with six on goal. So far this year, she has put up two shots with both on goal.
Her first shot of the season found the back of the net for her first career goal.
“It’s cool to see her get the recognition she deserves because, being an outside back doesn’t really matter, you don’t get much recognition,” teammate Taylor Morgan said. “.. For them, they save goals every game, and it’s never their name in the paper.”
Even though it was her first career goal, Martin didn’t take any of the credit for the goal. She gave all the credit to teammate Abbie Boswell, whose shot Martin rebounded in for the goal.
“Nealy is so composed,” Morgan said. “She would give someone else the glory before she takes it herself, because that’s who she is. That’s why she’s such a good captain. That’s why she’s a junior and a captain.”
Martin’s drive is one of the reasons coach Wes Hart named her one of Alabama’s captains.
“She’s a kid with great character, with a great work rate, polite, respectful, everything you could possibly ask for,” Hart said.