They say venture capital is a tough field; competitive and fast-paced. Frank Martin II is not afraid. He’s already proven he’s got the fight, the discipline, and the focus for the job.
Martin, who stepped down from his position as an offensive lineman for the Trojans in 2021, completed his undergraduate degree in real estate development from the Price School, knocked out a master’s in project management from Bovard, and is currently finishing up his Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI) from the Marshall School. Three degrees in six years, all while being a spokesman for Athletics’ Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He recently accepted a job as a Venture Fellow at 2045 Ventures.
Turns out the dream of playing Trojan Football was just the start of Martin’s trajectory. A means to an end. Martin himself says this was really the plan all along.
“I want to show other kids of color that they don’t have to be an athlete or entertainer to succeed—pick up that book instead and be a part of big business,” he said.
Which isn’t to say that he didn’t love football.
West Covina to Orange County to Trojan Country
Martin grew up in West Covina, with his mother, a woman of East Indian descent and his father, a Nigerian American. As he tells the story, there was family pressure for his mother to not go through with her unplanned pregnancy. But she insisted and started a family with his father.
“My mom is the driving force in my life,” he said. “She chose me.”
The household was modest but full of love and support. His father encouraged him in sports (cheering on the Trojans) while his mother helped him excel at academics. Martin played baseball growing up, but as he became bigger and stronger, he set his sights on football.
“My Dad had a real talk with me at that time,” he recalled. “He said if you don’t get a football scholarship, we don’t know how we’ll pay for college. He always knew my athleticism would be my bread and butter.”
And so it was that he attended a sporting camp one summer before high school. Although he was still learning the ropes of football, he had an athleticism, tenacity and discipline that made him stand out from the crowd. Mater Dei, a Catholic high school with 28 league championships and six undefeated seasons, immediately took notice of him. “I went in blindly, just wanting to do the best that I could,” he said.
“I want to show other kids of color that they don’t have to be an athlete or entertainer to succeed—pick up that book instead and be a part of big business."—Frank Martin II
He joined Mater Dei as a freshman offensive lineman, even though getting to Santa Ana, where the high school is located, from his home in West Covina meant catching a 5 a.m. bus. Martin was already highly disciplined, and made the journey without complaint, staying long hours after school at practice before taking the reverse trip home for dinner followed by homework.
The fear of failing drove him to work harder than other people. “Making friends and socializing wasn’t on my list. My mind was focused on being the best athlete I could, because that was the way I was going to get an education and move up.” He made the varsity team and began reaching out to college recruiters himself. Martin had a goal and even in high school he wasn’t one to sit back and wait for it to happen.
Making the Dream Team
There was never any question of who he’d play for if given the chance. Martin remembers watching Trojan football with his father, weeping as an 8-year-old when they lost in the Rose Bowl. When the offer came in, Martin donned the cardinal and gold and arrived on campus in 2016, just in time for the memorable Trojan Rose Bowl win against Penn State.
As a freshman redshirt, he dressed for play but didn’t get on the field or travel for games. The next few years were challenging as well, and Martin saw very little on-field action during his undergraduate experience. Then came 2020. He continued to train hard, keeping his weight up, but working out had become like purgatory for him, he said. Nor did he have time to pursue his studies the way he wanted to.
He made a cost-benefit analysis. Did he continue to hurt his physical and mental health for a dream that wasn’t looking too likely anymore? He would not. Football did not define him at that point, he said. “Football was a tool I used to educate myself because I had no other choice.” With coach Clay Helton’s support, he walked away. “For the first time I felt like a college student. The amount of effort I could put into my classes is night and day.”
He stayed close to USC Athletics, working as a student director for its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. “I’m the one giving speeches to alumni at networking events, he said.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to maximize my opportunities I have. There’s a tribe of people who have invested in me,” he said. “I want to challenge people to go above the status quo.”
He knows there’s a high bar to enter the venture capital field, and a higher one to succeed. But Martin’s ready to put the work in.
“I’m used to the hard work,” he says. “The gritty way. I can do anything I put my mind to.”