Jason Martin strolled into the Firehouse Subs on East Johnson Avenue and immediately caused a stir with the lunchtime crowd. At first glance, he seems like a normal guy. Kinda tall. A little skinny. Just another guy in Jonesboro wearing a shirt and tie.
It's the Arkansas State Red Wolves football helmet on his head that kinda stands out.
"It's a good way to start a conversation about the Red Wolves," says Jason, who was, of course, still wearing the helmet. In fact, he hasn't taken it off in weeks. Not since the young Associate Athletic Director declared that the helmet would stay on until A) the month of August ends or (B) the football program sells 10,000 season tickets. Whichever comes first.
Wherever Jason goes – grabbing lunch, meeting with donors, mowing the lawn – the helmet remains on. Jason is at the helmet's mercy, and it doesn't care that it's 100º or that his wife is thinking of having Jason committed. The helmet even has its own Twitter hashtag, #FollowTheHelmet.
Jason had previous stints at (The) Ohio State and the University of Memphis. And while he was accustomed to challenging sales goals, this helmet stunt is, as former Red Wolves head coach Gus Malzahn might say, "Next Level."
"I've never done anything remotely like this," admitted Jason through the face mask. As far as I know, he's never answered Four and a Half Questions either. But he was up for that challenge, too.
1) Why just the helmet? Why not shoulder pads too? This seems half-assed, Jason.
(Laughs merrily) "Explain that to my wife!"
2) Entrepreneur Magazine recently declared that Blake Anderson is college football's most entrepreneurial head coach. What does he think of your efforts?
"He just laughed and said, 'That would be awesome!" Coach Anderson never shoots down an idea. When I actually did it, he thought it was great."
3) "Entrepreneurial" is an interesting way to describe an athletic department. Have you thought about approaching college athletics as a start-up?
"Actually, (A-State Athletic Director) Terry Mohajir tells us that all the time. He wants us in that entrepreneurial mindset, and to study trends even outside of athletics.
4) Terry Mohajir is a high-energy kind of guy. What's it like working with him?
"He thinks like I do. He's very demanding, but that's what keeps us from getting lazy."
4.5) Are you deathly afraid that you'll have permanent helmet hair?
(Laughs ruefully) "I don't have much hair left, so I'm not taking a big risk!"
You can follow Jason's heroic helmeted saga on Twitter.