Nebraska’s newest quarterback commit, Adrian Martinez, was still recovering from shoulder surgery when his school’s season kicked off. He knew he wouldn’t play, and at that moment, a star player like him could go in one of two directions. He could sulk, or he could find a new role.
Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West coach George Petrissans saw Martinez choose the latter. He couldn’t play quarterback, so he served as a kind of player-coach. He didn’t miss a morning workout or an evening practice. Martinez’s spectacular junior season — when he amassed 3,869 total yards and 41 total touchdowns — had already guaranteed him a scholarship at a top school, but he didn’t coast.
And that, Petrissans said, might be the most impressive thing about the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder.
“He’s as good of a player as I’ve ever coached, and as good of an athlete as he is, he’s an even better person,” Petrissans said.
Martinez — a consensus four-star prospect who’s a top-100 recruit according to ESPN — is now a Husker, flipping from Tennessee to Nebraska. He committed to new head coach Scott Frost and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco on Tuesday night when they made their cross-country flight to Fresno for an in-home visit.
“They made a good impression on me,” Martinez said Wednesday evening. “I had a feeling in my heart — Nebraska’s the place I want to be. I want to play for those coaches. I want to play in front of those fans. And I want to go win. And I’m confident in their message and who they are as people and as coaches that we can really accomplish some special things.”
Martinez said Frost “is a real player’s coach” and did the right thing by choosing to coach his former team, Central Florida, in the Peach Bowl.
“It speaks volumes that he’s going out to coach the bowl game,” Martinez said. “He’s going to finish it out with his players. That’s a big deal. That definitely impressed me. It showed me he wouldn’t give up on his players, that he wasn’t selfish. He’s demonstrated a lot of great things throughout this process in making the transition to Nebraska. It speaks to his character.”
He’ll sign Dec. 20, enroll early at NU and try to win the starting job in spring camp. Martinez expects to play in the Under Armour All-American game Jan. 4, and Petrissans said Martinez wanted to play for Clovis toward the end of his senior season.
Doctors told him to hold off. He’ll come to Nebraska healthy and ready to play for Verduzco, the key piece in NU’s recruiting pitch. Although Martinez was bound for a Power Five school after his junior season, Verduzco, then at Central Florida working for Frost, nevertheless built a relationship with Martinez. They talked all the finer points of football, including mechanics.
“Coach Verduzco is incredibly passionate about football and coaching the quarterback position,” Martinez said. “That’s someone I want to be with, on a day in and day out basis, learning the game from.”
Just hours after UCF won the American Athletic Conference title game, Verduzco called Martinez with a scholarship offer to Nebraska. Martinez, committed to a then-coachless Tennessee at the time, was immediately interested. He made an official visit Dec. 8. He hosted UT’s new head coach Jeremy Pruitt, on Monday. Frost and Verduzco were there Tuesday.
Martinez said he’d have a decision “within the week.” He did.
Petrissans said Martinez is a true dual-threat to run or pass.
“He’ll fit Coach Frost’s offense,” Petrissans said. “He’ll really excel in it, because he processes information very quickly. In that offense, it’s a lot of decisions, knowing when to pull the ball or keep it, and Adrian is really good with that.”
“I fit his model of being a mobile quarterback who can spread out the defense and use his legs but also throw and makes things happen,” Martinez said. “That’s one of their biggest pitches: That I fit perfectly in their offense.”
He started two seasons as Clovis West — earning his spurs as a sophomore when he beat out a popular senior. Martinez won over his teammates with excellent play. As a junior, he won over scouts. ESPN rates Martinez as the nation’s No. 56 overall prospect. The 247Sports composite rates Martinez the No. 142 player in the nation, while Rivals has him at No. 167. That puts Martinez in comparable territory with recent highly-touted Husker quarterback recruits like Tristan Gebbia, Patrick O’Brien, Cody Green and Johnny Stanton.
What services can’t measure, Petrissans said, is Martinez’s toughness.
Originally, coaches thought the labrum injury was suffered during last basketball season. But Petrissans remembers Martinez getting hurt late in his junior season. For a week after that game, Martinez couldn’t throw, but he still played basketball with the injury, and once he knew he couldn’t further injure it, he kept playing hoops until the surgery.
Serving as a player-coach for Clovis West, Martinez helped younger quarterbacks guide the team to a 9-3 record, its best since 2010. Late in the season, Martinez was about 90 percent, and pushed to play.
By holding off, Martinez gives himself a better chance to play quickly at NU, where Verduzco — who transformed UCF’s McKenzie Milton into one of the nation’s best quarterbacks — will develop him.
The whirlwind romance for Nebraska’s 2018 quarterback recruit is complete. Martinez knows the fan base is excited.
“Twitter gives you a sense of that,” Martinez said. “The Nebraska faithful comes in flocks. It’s been very cool to see that.”
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