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Nebraska Cornhusker quarterback Adrian Martinez makes a pass during practice Wednesday
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Bond Between Martinez and Verduzco Helped the Pair Through Tough Times

April 10, 2021

The bond between a quarterback and a quarterbacks coach is a special one.

When a player is the first handpicked quarterback at a new school that bond becomes even closer. That’s how the relationship between quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and Adrian Martinez started. One of the first phone calls to a recruit by the staff when they relocated from Orlando to Lincoln was to Martinez. The staff loved him when they were at UCF but knew they were not getting him to go there. They got him to Nebraska though.

It’s been an up and down career for the California native while at Nebraska. He came out of the gates hot with a good freshman season. That freshman year fueled huge expectations for a sophomore leap. That leap did not happen. Murmurs began during Martinez’ sophomore season that a change was needed. They continued during his junior campaign. Martinez was benched in favor of Luke McCaffrey. Verduzco spoke about the difficulty in making that decision last year.

“Number one, I don’t make those calls. Those are Coach Frost decisions,” Verduzco said. He asked me what I thought and I told him. I told Adrian the exact reason why it needed to happen. Y’all have children, some of you have pets. You love them to death, man. Sometimes those things are difficult to tell them the truth about stuff. That’s not always easy, but it needs to be done.

“That part of the four domains of learning, that affective domain part sometimes can be the most difficult of things. Just in terms of the communication and things that that you are required to say. He and I have a tremendous relationship. Those lines of communication were wide open when we recruited him, when he came here and they still are.”

It is tough to be benched. In the end Martinez regained his job. He played well down the stretch run of the 2020 season. We still saw the highs and the lows of his play which were on display during the season finale against Rutgers. Verduzco called that game the worst and best game he’s ever seen. Martinez has two fumbles and two inceptions in the game. He also threw for 255 yards yards with a passing touchdown plus picked up 157 yards and two scores on the ground. There was learning that happened as a result of Martinez being benched.

“Well, I think anytime you have a setback like that and you don’t learn from it there’s a problem,” Verduzco said. “We had a good heart to heart. So, I think he grew a lot as a quarterback. He’s a pretty mature young guy to begin with from a behavior standpoint, just how he carries himself. Does that always translate over to how you are as a quarterback? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I think he learned quite a bit from that experience.”

One of the things that Martinez has to learn moving forward is how to continue preparing daily. He knows that he has the job locked down this season.That was a criticism between his freshman and sophomore year. He took his foot off the gas knowing that there was no quarterback competition.

“I very rarely have been around quarterbacks who aren’t self-motivated to do as best as they can,” Verduzco said. “Regardless of who’s behind them. I would have never in a million years anticipated that Adrian may be needing that. I just I just would not have. Don’t allow that same sort of thing to take place a second time around. Go out and make certain you’re focused on competing against yourself and you’re getting better every day.”

Martinez recognizes that he has to cut the turnovers and have attention to detail each day. He still wants to show what this team can become. There have been a lot of ups and downs over his career. One thing that has helped him through it all is the strong relationship with his coach.

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