Notre Dame’s Martin, the Cowboys’ first-round pick, and Stanford’s Gardner, one of their five seventh-rounders, played against each other three times with Gardner missing the 2013 meeting because of an injury.
“Zack is one of the best all-around offensive linemen I’ve ever played against, for sure,” Gardner said. “We always had good battles with each other. He’s one of those guys who I have a lot of respect for because he plays the right way. He’s not a dirty player. He just plays hard through the whistle. He’s going to do great things for the Cowboys.”
After the games Martin and Gardner would congratulate each other, having built a respect over the years.
“Very tough, put his nose in there on blocks,” Martin said. “Then when he gets on the edge, he has a lot of quickness. At Stanford he played a little D-tackle and D-end and when you see D-tackles move outside, you think, ‘All right a little advantage here,’ but he’s got a lot of quickness and good moves. Whenever we played Stanford we always knew where he was. Very active player. High motor.”
Gardner did his best to throw Martin off his game.
“He’s quiet,” Gardner said. “I’m more the talker. I tried to get in his head but you can’t faze him. He doesn’t like to talk.”
Stanford won three of the four years, but Notre Dame kept its unbeaten season going in 2012 with a somewhat controversial win on a goal-line stand.
“Stanford fans think it was,” Martin said. “They blew the whistle, so we stopped, and then the ball went over the goal line.”