EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – LJ Martin made play after play for Canutillo during his high school football career; it’s fitting that he had one more up his sleeve.

In a National Signing Day surprise, the Eagles four-star running back signed with BYU on Wednesday, after being committed to Stanford since last summer.

Martin did not make it public knowledge that he had committed to BYU in the months leading up to National Signing Day, a secret that he said was tough to keep at times. When he pulled out a BYU hat and put it on at his signing announcement, there was an audible gasp in the Canutillo High School auditorium.

“It was pretty tough. I wasn’t trying to go tell everyone, but it was tough because I would say some stuff sometimes and then be like, ‘oh I’m not supposed to say that,'” Martin said. “Once you put your name on the dotted line, everything is set. It feels great to have all the pressure relieved and it’s a blessing.”

It’s a big coup for the Cougars to land a player that they pursued hard in the latter stages of the recruiting cycle. Martin is ranked 266th on ESPN’s Top 300 for the Class of 2023 and rushed for 2,138 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2022, while leading the Eagles to the Class 5A Division II Regional Semifinals for a second consecutive year.

Martin was offered by BYU on Dec. 1 and things got serious after Stanford parted ways with former head coach David Shaw. Martin took a visit to Provo a few days later, at which point his quiet commitment to the Cougars was set in motion.

“I had to re-open my decision and go look for the best opportunity for me,” Martin said. “Taking the visit to BYU, I just really enjoyed my time there. The running back room really meshed well together. It was one of the best times I had on an official visit. I had to reevaluate things and BYU was the best fit.”

Martin became a priority recruit for BYU and will come in and compete for playing time right away as a true freshman. Listed at 6’2, 205 pounds, Martin already possesses a physique that will help him transition well to the next level.

Coached by Kalani Sitake, BYU went 8-5 in 2022 and beat SMU in the New Mexico Bowl, 24-23. BYU will move to the Big 12 beginning with the 2023 season, a move that Martin said contributed to his commitment to the Cougars.

“It’s very exciting because I’ll be back in Texas all the time,” Martin said. “I was looking at the schedule and I’ll get to play Jeremiah Cooper (Andress graduate at Iowa State) in week 11. It’ll be close to home, so that also made it easier to say that this was my decision.”

Martin is one of a few Borderland athletes that have signed to play football at the Division I level next season. Parkland’s DJ Crest (Texas Tech) and Tyrone McDuffie III (UTEP) and Austin’s Jayden Wilson (New Mexico) signed during the December early signing period.

Andress running back Malcolm Anderson signed with Army today; Beau Sparks of Franklin is headed to the FCS level with Utah Tech. A myriad of others are going to be preferred walk-ons, including Pebble Hills’ Jalile Bost (UTEP), Hanks’ Xavier Johnson (UTEP) and Centennial’s Isaiah Abeyta (New Mexico State).