Winning might be the greatest recruiting tool, but Chris Martin is an example that there are many other factors that go into choosing a college.
Martin, a highly decorated senior from Grandview High in Aurora, Colo., who played his first three prep seasons at Bishop O'Dowd, is expected to sign with Cal today on National Letter of Intent Day. Martin is the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country according to scout.com and the 10th-best overall prospect. Rivals.com ranks Martin as the nation's 18th-best player.
Cal went 8-5 last season, but the Bears have had trouble keeping up with the national elite in recent years. Cal has finished each of the past three seasons outside of the Associated Press Top 25.
Martin could have gone to just about any major college football power. He orally committed to Notre Dame but switched to the Bears after Irish coach Charlie Weis was fired.
It made for interesting timing when Martin committed to Cal just after the Bears ended the regular season with a 42-10 dud at Washington. Cal then went on to lose to Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl.
But Martin said he wasn't bothered by the way the Bears closed out the season.
"It just showed what we need to work on, what we need to do next year to do what we want to do — get to the Rose Bowl and eventually a national championship," he said.
Martin said his Bay Area roots were only part of the reason he chose Cal after decommitting from Notre Dame. He said he felt most comfortable with Cal's coaching staff and sought out a good education.
Whatever the reason, Martin is the kind of prospect who can be a program-changer. He's the first recruit ranked No. 1 at his position to commit to Cal since Kyle Boller came to Berkeley as the nation's top-rated quarterback in 1999. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is the only other player in Jeff Tedford's eight years as coach who came in with similar hype and expectations.
Martin could play right away as a true freshman. The Bears lacked a true rush linebacker last season, and Martin could fill that hole immediately.
"I could care less about rankings," Martin said. "I really don't pay attention to them at all. You can pay attention to my ranking and stats and all that, but that doesn't mean anything on Saturdays.
"I'm not putting any pressure on myself. All I see is myself going in and competing for a job."
Martin also has the kind of dynamic personality that Cal could use on the field. The Bears typically have been a soft-spoken bunch in recent years, but by all accounts Martin is an outgoing leader who has been trying to recruit other players to Berkeley since he committed in December.
"He has the kind of personality that is going to help draw other players to the program," ESPN.com recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. "Once he committed, he became their best recruiter. He's a huge impact guy, not just on the field but off the field.
"He's probably their biggest recruit since DeSean Jackson. He has a chance to come in and play immediately. He really fits that 3-4 (defense) to a tee."
Cal fell short of lofty expectations this season for the second time in three years, and Biggins said he noticed there wasn't as much excitement about Cal among recruits as in recent years. Still, a late push has given the Bears what likely will end up being a top-20 class nationally.
All of Cal's 16 oral commitments are expected to sign their letters today, including highly rated defensive end Gabe King of Eugene, Ore. The Bears' class could really reach lofty heights if it also receives a letter from Keenan Allen of Greensboro, N.C., who is rated as the No. 1 safety in the country and is believed to be choosing between Cal and Penn State.