In this file photo, Martez Eastland, 17, poses for portraits on the Ringgold High School football field.Staff File Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Former Ringgold High School football star Martez Eastland is back on campus at Georgia Southern University.
He was arrested following a March 18 incident with his sister-in-law, allegedly involving marijuana and an assault, but later released on bond.
Eastland, the Times Free Press North Georgia offensive player of the year following his junior season at Ringgold and a first-team all-star again his senior year, signed a scholarship to Ole Miss, where he got limited action at fullback as a freshman last season. After the season, Eastland announced due to the Rebels’ switch to a spread offense that he had asked for his release and was transferring to Georgia Southern.
The court case is due to be heard in Catoosa County court sometime in August.
According to Georgia Southern assistant athletic director Rose Carter, Eastland still is on scholarship, though he has been suspended for what she called “a violation of team rules.”
“We have no knowledge of an arrest, but Coach [Jeff] Monken is handling the matter internally,” Carter said Tuesday. “We have no comment other than that.”
Ringgold coach Robert Akins hopes the incident will be a turning point for the talented Eastland, who was ranked as the No. 4 fullback by Scout.com after rushing for more than 3,000 yards his final two seasons at Ringgold.
“I know this is an unfortunate incident, but in the end it may end up saving Martez,” said Akins, who has not spoken with his former player since his arrest. “Martez needs to realize he has to become accountable and be a team player and grow up. I sincerely hope this happens for him.”
For legal reasons, Eastland has been advised not to comment on the case.
According to the police report, officers were dispatched around 1 a.m. on March 18 to 480 Guyler St. in Ringgold, where they found 21-year-old Kiera Hemphill yelling at Eastland. Eastland told police the two had been arguing and that he let her out of his car and she threw a rock at it as he drove away. Hemphill admitted to throwing the rock and was arrested on a charge of criminal trespassing. Eastland was not arrested at that point.
However, after arriving at the Catoosa County jail, Hemphill told police the argument started when she refused to share her marijuana with Eastland, who then, according to Hemphill, slapped her in the face. She then threw a cell phone charger at him and proceeded to exit Eastland’s 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the report related.
According to Hemphill’s statement, Eastland went after her, dragged her to a parking lot, threw her to the ground, kicked her in the head and threatened to kill her. As he attempted to drive off, that’s when she threw the rock.
Asked why she did not mention the alleged assault when police arrived at the scene, Hemphill said she was afraid to mention the drugs.
A warrant for Eastland was issued after police were called about a complaint of Eastland being verbally abusive to a woman who had witnessed the argument between him and Hemphill.
Eastland also was served with a letter from Ringgold High School instructing him to stay off the campus after he was caught trespassing on school property the night before the incident with Hemphill. Ringgold police chief Dan Bilbrey said Eastland told him he was looking for a particular male student and that if he found him he was going to fight him.
School resource officer Brent Hamil told Bilbrey that he believed Eastland’s interest in the male student concerned a female student at the school.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...