PERKINSTON — It's not a number Martinas Rankin is likely to ever forget, the number of scholarship offers he had from four-year schools coming out of Mendenhall High School in 2013.
Zero. Not a single, solitary offer.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College was there, however, and gave him a chance to continue his development.
Fast forward five years and millions watched his name being called out Friday night on the floor of cavernous AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The former Bulldog became a member of the Houston Texans when the team selected him in the third round with the 80th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
"I was stressed for a little while, then all of a sudden I get a call and it's relief, happiness, joy. All that good stuff," Rankin said. "I'm just blessed right now to still be living my dream."
Rankin had plenty of offers coming out of Gulf Coast, where he was ranked the top junior college offensive lineman in the country coming out of Gulf Coast. He was a first-team NJCAA All-American, and also claimed first-team All-Region 23 and All-MACJC honors.
He blossomed during his time in Perkinston thanks to offensive line coach Les George.
"With Coach George, that's where I first started understanding where the drills we did were implemented into football," Rankin said. "That's where I started my development and started picking up weight."
Rankin went to Mississippi State, where he played left tackle. He was named to the All-SEC First Team by the league's coaches as a senior and earned second-team honors from the Associated Press.
He continued his strong work in the classroom after leaving Gulf Coast, where he was an NCJAA All-Academic honoree. Rankin is a two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, college football's top academic award.
Rankin won the 2017 Kent Hull Award, given to the top offensive lineman in Mississippi.
Now, he'll head to Houston with an opportunity to join a team led by Deshaun Watson, who had a sparkling rookie season cut short by a knee injury.
"They have a great dual-threat quarterback, and they kind of have the same style offense we ran at Mississippi State," Rankin said. "I feel like I fit in well with them. They've got a great, young team, and the team is going to be able to contend for a title right away."
Rankin played left tackle for both sets of Bulldogs, MGCCC and MSU. His new team sees him as a Swiss Army knife.
"We see him as an offensive lineman," Gaine said. "He was a starting left tackle in the SEC, so my hope is he'll have the ability to do that. But we also believe that if he has to play guard, right side, left side, wherever we need him, that this guy has the versatility to do that."
Rankin took care of business off the field, graduating with a degree in kinesiology in December. He'll also have an opportunity now to make an even bigger mark on the field.
"It's hard to believe, but I always trusted in myself and knew if I continued to work hard, at the end of the day I could give myself a decent chance," Rankin said. "Even if it didn't work out, I'd have no regrets. It still hasn't hit me, but I'm blessed."
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