When Adrian Martinez thinks back to his official recruiting visit to Nebraska’s campus nearly a month ago, certain aspects stand out.
For instance, Martinez said, he was blown away by his initial meeting with new Husker quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco.
“Me and my dad met with him in the quarterback meeting room,” Martinez said. “He was just kind of giving us the surface-level introduction of what he really wanted to teach the quarterbacks, and how he talked to his quarterbacks. It was kind of mind-blowing, really, the way he was teaching it to us.
“You usually don’t get quarterback coaches who do that type of thing. They’re usually just more about being showy, and Coach Verduzco is more about real football. And that’s what I love.”
Ah, yes, real football. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback from Fresno, California, who signed with Nebraska on Dec. 20, Martinez at last is getting a heavy dose of the sport he loves this week as he prepares to play in the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday in Orlando, Florida.
The contest is set for 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
Rated as a consensus four-star player in high school, Martinez is naturally a bit anxious because he sat out all this season at Clovis West after undergoing shoulder surgery in March. He practiced Monday in Orlando, and another practice was scheduled for Tuesday.
He anticipates fairly extensive playing time Thursday.
“I think I feel a combination of emotions,” he said. “I’m really excited to get out there and play and showcase my abilities. Obviously, it’s on national television. It’s a pretty big thing.
“I want to perform well, so yes, I’m a little anxious. But I’m excited. I feel like this is such an awesome opportunity. I’m just going to have fun. If I play poorly, it’s not going to be because of lack of effort. I’m going to play hard and make sure I have fun while I’m doing it, then I’m going to be on my way to Lincoln, Nebraska.”
He will arrive Friday in Lincoln, celebrate his 18th birthday Sunday and begin classes Monday at Nebraska, set to major in business administration. He’s also interested in broadcasting.
One of eight early enrollees in the Huskers’ 2018 recruiting class, Martinez is about to get a heavy dose of winter conditioning. As one four quarterbacks on the roster, he understands the importance of setting the tone for teammates.
“I’m just trying my best to remain humble throughout this whole process and know I’m nowhere near the top of my game,” he said. “I just have to keep improving each day and just stay humble and stay grounded with my family — just be appreciative, you know.”
As a junior at Clovis West, Martinez passed for 2,562 yards and 25 touchdowns, with four interceptions, and added 1,462 rushing yards (8.0 per carry) and 14 more scores.
Before leaving Fresno for the all-star game, he had been throwing “a little bit here and there, just trying to get back into a groove.”
“I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job thus far here in Orlando, just trying to find my footing and keep improving with each day,” he said. “The practices have been pretty long — three hours each day. We’ve really been trying to learn a playbook. We’re just trying to find rhythm, find timing, understand the concepts and whatnot. We’re really getting better with each day.
“Having said that, it is an all-star game. It won’t be perfect. But we’ve practiced a lot.”
He is one of three quarterbacks on the roster of “Team Spotlight,” led by former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci. NFL Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders is leading “Team Highlight.”
Asked if he’s finding his own rhythm, Martinez said, “I believe there’s going to be a process where I find my groove again, if that makes sense. There’s going to be a transition period for me, I believe. I don’t think it’s going to be hard for me to get over that hump.
“But I think in winter conditioning at Nebraska — January and February, into spring ball — I’ll get all that stuff (rust) off. I’m going to become more smooth and things are going to come easier for me. I really believe it’s just a matter of time.”
For now, he’s glad to be cleared to play, cleared to take hits, cleared to show his talent.
He’s also excited for Verduzco to help him improve as a player.
“He’s just a really passionate guy, someone who’s going to love his quarterbacks but be honest with them,” Martinez said. “I feel like that’s the type of person I’ve always wanted to be coached by — someone who will be hard on me when needed but will love me when needed, too.
“It seems like he has a good balance of those things.”