In a myriad of big-time Division I football offers, 27 in fact, the University of Tennessee was almost an afterthought for Adrian Martinez.
With the likes of Alabama, Oregon, Washington State, West Virginia, Miami and Texas Tech offering scholarships and clammering hard at the chance to land the 4-star Clovis West quarterback, Tennessee just seemed like a nice offer at the time for a California kid 2,300 miles away.
But in the end, it was the lure of the Orange and White, Rocky Top, and the relationships built with the coaching staff that sealed the deal – the 4-star quarterback is headed to the Volunteer State with a verbal commitment he pledged on May 12.
“When I first got that offer I didn’t think I would end up at Tennessee,” said Martinez, who just completed his junior season. “But after getting to review some things and doing some research and more importantly getting to know the coaches I really made a connection that far surpassed any other coaching staff.”
Clearly, relationships are important to Martinez.
“They really made a big time impression with myself and my family and throughout my shoulder injury they were consistent,” Martinez said. “The head coach [Butch Jones] made constant contact with me along with many other staff members and got to know me. It felt like a genuine process, especially after visiting there.”
The shoulder injury Martinez is referring to is a torn labrum he suffered in the school’s final basketball game of the season – an upset loss to Bullard in the Central Section playoffs. He had surgery to repair the labrum and is rehabbing twice a week with the hopes of returning to the field for his senior season.
On two different occasions, Tennessee coaches flew in personally to visit the 6-foot-2, 190 pounder. Martinez was impressed with their pursuit of him and valued the priority they placed on landing the talented quarterback.
“At the end of the day that’s what matters most for me,” said Martinez. “I wanted to feel comfortable and I wanted to feel like a place where I can make an impact and where people believe in me, where I can work hard and prove myself, and I feel like Tennessee is that place.”
Tennessee has won a total of 13 conference championships and six national titles, the latest in 1998. Their stadium, Neyland Stadium, holds 102,455 seats and is the fifth largest stadium in college football.
Martinez, a true dual-threat and ranked by ESPN as the No. 32 prospect overall in the class of 2018, threw for 2,484 yards, 25 touchdowns, added 1,385 yards on the ground and 16 more touchdowns. He’s also ranked as the No. 3 prospect in California.
He verbally committed to Cal in October of last year but head coach Sonny Dykes and his staff was fired after the 2016 season. With a new staff in place at Cal, Martinez decided to open up his recruitment and was blown away when he visited the campus on an unofficial visit for its spring game, a event that draws over 40,000 strong.
Fresno State was actually one of the first Division I schools to offer – and new head coach Jeff Tedford made great efforts to keep the homegrown Valley star in town – but Martinez sees great value in honing his skills in the Southeastern Conference and stepping out of his comfort zone.
“The coaches pitched it this way – without being uncomfortable first, you can’t grow,” Martinez said. “I feel like being far away I can develop my own identity and I have people in place that will help me with that. Tennessee is the best place to accomplish my dreams and goals and I had to go after it.
“Sometimes you have to take that risk and really go for what you want in life and this is my opportunity to do that. My parents are behind me 100 percent in support of this. A lot of people wish I could stay closer or go to Fresno State and get to play in front of them but I just had to make that decision for myself. I want to please as many people as I can but sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself and that was probably the toughest thing.”
The official day to sign a National Letter of Intent is Feb. 7, 2018.