This story originally appeared in the Hail Varsity 2019 Nebraska Football Yearbook. Never miss a Yearbook, or any issue of the magazine, with a subscription to Hail Varsity.
A black 2007 Chevrolet Silverado parks in the first stall in the first row closest to the entrance on the north side of Memorial Stadium. There’s only one way to get that spot. You arrive first.
Offensive linemen and brothers Matt and Will Farniok, as well as quarterback Adrian Martinez, are the ones in that truck in the first stall of the first row. It’s 840 pounds of football player and the truck springs up from the weight when the three step out.
Martinez is wearing a grey Nebraska football sweatshirt and black Adidas sweatpants. He has the hood of the sweatshirt up over his head, hardly recognizable in the dark morning as he makes his way toward the stadium doors. He keeps his gaze locked forward, saying very little as he approaches the stadium. It’s only a Wednesday spring practice but Martinez appears to be someone ready to go to battle.
Practice No. 11 of Nebraska’s spring football schedule doesn’t begin until 8:15 a.m., but meetings start at 7 a.m. Martinez has 40 minutes to get a few things done before he must be in the quarterback room on the football floor of Memorial Stadium. That includes calibrating a heart rate monitor, which is the first stop of the day.
After quickly dropping his backpack at his locker, Martinez makes his way to a meeting room in the Student Life Complex in West Stadium. The Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory is the reason for the monitors, requiring some players—such as Martinez—to wear a monitor for every practice and others to do so when selected.
The room is dark and the only light filters in from the hallway. Linebacker Mohamed Barry is lying on the floor next to a few other players as his monitor calibrates. There are others sitting patiently with containers of food placed in front of them, waiting to eat once the process is complete. If there are individuals from the performance lab in the room, they’re not noticeable. The players know what to do.
Martinez has always been told the calibration process takes “about five minutes.” He knows it’ll be longer at this point. He’s right. It takes 10.
When his monitor is ready, Martinez heads to the training table for breakfast. There are already several players eating. Each coach sets the rules for his position group. Some groups are not allowed to bring food in their meeting rooms. The quarterbacks are.
Martinez focuses on something he can take with him. There’s a wide selection of cereal, fruit, pre-made breakfast sandwiches and pancakes. Martinez opts for a scoop of cantaloupe and makes his own eggs.
Yes, Martinez makes his own eggs. The training table has four stations that allow the student- athletes the opportunity to create their own egg dishes, with instructions on what to do and how to clean up when you’re done. Martinez begins to cook in one of the available skillets, selecting three whole eggs that he’ll scramble and season with only pepper. However, he quickly realizes he forgot to put oil in the skillet when the eggs begin to burn.
A process that normally takes Martinez only a few minutes has just become longer. The time Martinez will now spend correcting his error will have to be made up somewhere else. He’s also adamant that he can’t just leave the skillet and alerts a training table staff member of his error. She assures him that she can handle the burnt pan, but Martinez insists on helping. He may be running out of time, but he can’t leave his mess for someone else to handle. The two go back and forth until he finally accepts the staff member’s offer to take care of the burned eggs. Martinez starts over.
With his new eggs in hand, Martinez makes his way to the locker room. He’s learned over his short time at Nebraska that it’s best to get partially changed prior to meetings. This allows him to get ready for practice after meetings without feeling too rushed. Once he’s as ready as he needs to be (usually everything minus his cleats, upper pads and jersey), he heads to the athletic trainer across the hall to get his ankles taped.
Martinez is ready. After one last trip to the locker room to grab the packet needed for meetings and his food, he takes the stairs two flights up.
He is 54 minutes into his day.
Martinez is a sophomore business administration major. He is also the quarterback of the Nebraska football team. In his first season with the Huskers, he broke all kinds of records and earned a number of awards both academically and athletically. He has the awards you get when you average 295.1 yards of total offense per game and carry a 3.5 GPA.
In his 11 starts for Nebraska in 2018, Martinez completed 64.6 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,617 yards. He had three 400-yard-total-offense games and 25 total touchdowns. By the time the season ended, Martinez had put his name firmly in the Nebraska record books.
Yet, Martinez is still very much in awe of the names and faces that cover the walls outside of Nebraska’s locker room. There are rows of plaques dedicated to Husker captains and All-Americans, something for which Martinez is quick to note his appreciation when passing. While he’s already accomplished a lot in his short Nebraska career, Martinez knows there’s a lot he has yet to do. He hopes it eventually results in his photo on that wall, too.
For now, Martinez controls what he’s able. He’s early to meetings and practice. He studies hard and rarely misses class. He is one to lead by example, but there is an expectation for him to step up vocally as well.
“He’s naturally going to be one of our leaders, but I want to see it go beyond that,” Coach Scott Frost said of Martinez early in spring football. “I want to see him be the guy that’s setting the tone for the entire offense and the entire team. His play on the field is going to take care of itself. It’s hard to be a real leader as a true freshman but it’s time for him to step into that role.”
That means Martinez has to be more vocal on and off the practice field. When teammates aren’t doing something they should be doing, Martinez needs to speak up.
And on that Wednesday following practice No. 11, Martinez is put to the test. Walking with a few teammates, one allowed the door to shut on junior volleyball middle blocker Lauren Stivrins. Martinez stops.
“You can’t be doing that,” Martinez explains to his teammate. “Hold the door open for others.”
Practice ends just after 11 a.m. and Martinez leaves the practice field about 10 minutes later. Martinez is stopped during his walk to the locker room, which takes him through the tunnel that connects the Hawks Championship Center to North Stadium.
“Can you do the HuskerVision interview now?”
HuskerVision is putting together a video to be played during the annual Red-White spring game and wants Martinez to participate. He has class at 12:30 p.m., and he has yet to shower, change and get lunch. One of Nebraska’s sports information directors asks if the interview can wait until later, if Martinez has time. He promises to make the time if he has to.
Martinez will tell you that he “takes forever” to get ready in the locker room, but he has a good reason to spend a little extra time in his day here. He often chats with teammates about practice and upcoming classes in the locker room, so he factors that in to the time he needs. He spends even more time than usual in the locker room today—more than he probably should have—running down a controversial call that was made toward the end of practice. The offense won on that call, which created a big debate in the locker room.
At noon, Martinez is off to the training table again. He picks chicken, asparagus and watermelon for lunch. He’d prefer to make his own rice bowl, which is now stationed in the same spot where he made eggs earlier in the morning, but the lines are too long. That’s time lost, so he passes and makes his way to a long high-top table in the back of the room. Martinez joins a dozen other football players, including Austin Allen, Nick Henrich, Brody Belt and Joseph Johnson.
Fifteen minutes later, Johnson determines it’s time to go. They don’t have much time to get to class. Martinez gets up—his lunch only half-eaten—and begins to slowly walk to return his plate, continuing to eat the whole way.
Once in the hallway, Martinez grabs his backpack and finds Johnson and a couple of other teammates. Freshman Wan’Dale Robinson wanders into the group at some point, open container of food in hand. It’s typical of teammates to sporadically join each other on their walks to and from class, coming and going without a word. The group winds through hallways and stairwells of Memorial Stadium, emerging on the east side of the building. From there, they walk to the new business college just a couple of blocks away.
As Martinez walks, students take notice. Two young women nudge each other as he steps into the business college. “That’s Adrian Martinez,” they whisper to one another. He’s only been stopped on campus a few times while at Nebraska—or so he says—but he hardly notices anyone looking or pointing him out.
“I think for the most part people who might be curious also realize that we are the same age,” Martinez says. “I’m a student just like them.”
Martinez is one of the last out of his business writing lecture, which means he makes the walk back to Memorial Stadium alone. He sees plenty of familiar faces on the way though, including his roommate Barret Pickering. The kicker has been glued to his phone all morning because of a tweet he shared earlier. Pickering made a deal with a professor that if his tweet could reach 5,000 retweets, his class would receive an easier final. The tweet even featured a photo of Pickering shaking his professor’s hand with a signature as collateral on the white board behind them.
Pickering pleads to Martinez. The quarterback has just under 40,000 followers, in stark contrast to Pickering’s 6,000.
“I want to be retweet 5,000,” Martinez says.
“That doesn’t help me,” Pickering responds, before walking off.
Martinez walks back into Memorial Stadium. He stops in the locker room before heading into the weight room. The Big Ten Network is waiting.
Keith Mann, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for communications, intercepts Martinez. He wants to prep Martinez for the interview with BTN, explaining it’s a feature that will run the week of Nebraska’s spring game.
Martinez drops his backpack on a random weights machine before introducing himself to the BTN crew. After a few camera and mic checks, Martinez gets rolling. He spends the next 38 minutes discussing a little bit of everything, answering anything thrown his way with a smile on his face. He’s calm throughout, hardly peaking in emotion either way. Martinez doesn’t sound scripted, but he has a strategy in interviews.
“I try and be very aware and almost cautious sometimes of what I say during interviews because I think it's important to be,” Martinez says. “I never want it to sound scripted. I never want it to sound like I'm not being real with people, with my friends, things like that. There probably is a little bit of a slight difference (in interviews) only because I get into a little bit of a different mode when I’m doing interviews.”
As the BTN interview wraps up, Mann shows Martinez a few old photos of Frost when he played at Nebraska. They laugh and Martinez asks for copies. The two then head for the doors of the weight room, pausing as Martinez’s phone rings.
Linebacker Jake Archer is on the other end. He’s FaceTimed Martinez to ask where he is. It’s 2:12 p.m. and they need to get to the other side of campus for their Social Justice and Human Rights class, but Martinez isn’t where they usually meet to walk. Martinez apologizes, saying they’ll have to meet there. He promised HuskerVision that interview and this is where he found time.
Mann quickly reminds the two HuskerVision students that Martinez only has a few minutes. Martinez heads into the locker room to record his portion of the spring game video. When he’s done at 2:18 p.m., he finds offensive lineman Cameron Jurgens and the two walk as quickly as they’re able to the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center. It’s a 10-minute walk, and it has started to rain.
Martinez’s schedule feels a little like air-traffic control with a need for extreme precision. It’s jam-packed with practice, meetings and class. For as much as he’s an athlete, he’s just as much a student. Sometimes those worlds come a little too close to colliding.
For instance, Martinez realizes before his 2:30 p.m. class that he has a test for another class due before the end of the day. He quickly goes to work calculating the time he has left in the day. He’d ideally like to take the test between the conclusion of this class and his evening meeting, which begins at 5:10 p.m. He already knows he’ll be cutting it close.
His class ends at 3:50 p.m. It’s then a 10-minute walk back to the stadium. He’ll need to change and grab some food. He figures that will take another 15 minutes, putting the earliest he could take the test around 4:15 p.m. He needs an hour and he doesn’t have it.
It’s a lot to take in. Martinez knows he could take the test post-meetings and dinner at the stadium, but that means he'll get home even later than he hoped. He could take the test from home, but he knows he’d be distracted by his roommates—Pickering, Will Farniok and Brody Belt—if he did.
“Obviously going home and just relaxing is nice,” Martinez sighs.
Walking out of class, Martinez is surrounded by a group of football players. Farniok asks everyone if they want a ride back to the stadium. He’s found one from a volleyball player. Martinez declines, jokingly calling Farniok lazy. The group splits, with Jurgens and Brant Banks following Farniok, and Casey Rogers and Tate Wildeman joining Martinez.
After a block, Rogers goes another direction. Wildeman, who is slowly riding a motorized scooter, sticks with Martinez. The two spend the next several minutes discussing their class, their grades and where Captain Marvel was filmed. The discussion ends in a heated debate on fishing, and whether or not fog is a good thing when trying to catch fish.
Martinez and Wildeman make their way back into the stadium, saying hello to the security guards as they pass. Martinez heads right for The Landing, a spot positioned just outside of the weight room in North Stadium for student-athletes to grab snacks and refuel. Martinez is not the first in the area. Banks, Matt Masker, Kurt Rafdal and Jamie Nance are already there hanging out on the black leather couches, and others—including Wyatt Mazour and Noah Vedral—slowly file in after.
Martinez toasts a plain bagel and grabs two cream cheeses. He settles into a seat on the couch facing three televisions, but quickly realizes the volume is tuned to the wrong TV set. As his teammates jokingly dare Wildeman to eat string cheese for $30 (he’s lactose intolerant), Martinez finds the side panel next to the TVs and figures out how to switch everything around. When he successfully moves the audio from the left TV and the Big Ten Network to the middle TV and “Around the Horn” on ESPN, Martinez smiles and turns to the group.
“I did it!” he exclaims while the rest remain focused on Wildeman.
No one hears him, but Martinez’s smile only gets bigger. He finds a spot on the couch proud and amused by what he’s just done.
Pickering wanders through The Landing.
“Where are you at now?” Martinez asks.
Pickering smiles. He has just over 1,000 retweets but nothing yet from his roommate.
“Still waiting on you,” Pickering responds.
Martinez reminds him he wants to be the 5,000th retweet. Pickering sighs and says they’ll talk about it again later.
By the time Martinez heads upstairs to the players’ lounge, the window to take his test has passed. He’ll instead go and hang out with his friends before meetings. He expects some will be playing Fortnite. As for him, he’ll figure out his test. Just not right now.
Evening meetings run from 5:10-6 p.m. After that, players make their way to the training table for dinner. Martinez estimates that the back half of the room is entirely football, since they are all dismissed from meetings at the same time. It also means chaos, with everyone trying to get food and a seat.
The make-your-own area is closed, but Martinez doesn’t mind this time. It’s open occasionally for dinner with certain special menus, like the make-your-own sushi. That was served the night before. Martinez didn’t participate. He was too nervous.
Martinez instead settles for his usual. A protein—typically chicken or steak—and a couple of sides, including a vegetable. "I’m kind of boring,” he muses about his meal selections.
At some point during dinner, Martinez realizes the test he thought was due that day is actually due at midnight two days later. He’s relieved because he was running out of time, but it doesn’t solve everything. He still needs to hang around to study for other classes. He can also use the extra time to prepare for the test he thought was due today. It’ll also be too loud and chaotic at home, and he can find a little quiet at the stadium. It’s a better use of his time to stay put.
The sun is setting by the time Martinez packs up to head home. He’s been at the stadium since 6:17 a.m. He’s ready to be home.
Martinez can’t say he knew exactly what to expect coming from high school to college. He knew a few people who had done it and he was told it would be tough.
"I was told that it was hard being a student-athlete but it was worth it, of course,” Martinez says. “I still didn't have any idea what to expect. When I got here and experienced the day-in, day-out grind that it is, it was pretty tough. Thankfully, I came here a semester early and got a little more acclimated in the offseason, because the season is a different monster.”
Martinez doesn’t have practice tomorrow. It’s an off-day for the Huskers in spring football, but it doesn’t change much about his day. He has morning workouts and meetings followed by a full day of classes. Matt Farniok will pick up him and Will just after 6 a.m., and the three will park in the first spot of the first row of the North Stadium lot once again.
Martinez thinks about how he might spend that time as he walks home from Memorial Stadium. Maybe he’ll watch some TV or play some video games. Maybe he’ll hang out with his roommates.
He will finally have a little time for himself.