QB1 of the Bulldogs Nathan Martinez is 2good2btrue. The University of Redlands star is a modern version of Frank Merriwell (Google him kids), with a rifle for an arm and magic in his feet.
“He was one of the most dynamic players I’ve ever seen,” said Justin Price who coached Martinez at Yucaipa High School. “He was like Jayden Daniels, but not as big.” Daniels was the Cajon High quarterback who now starts at Arizona State. When interim Bulldog coach Jim Good suggested Martinez as a subject, I drew a blank. Turns out Martinez was torching the Citrus Belt League after I left for the Bay Area. So when I led Martinez to a bench one recent day at the Bulldogs practice field, I was not fully aware of his resume. Consider that in 2019 (Martinez’s last season due to the coronavirus pandemic) he completed 69% of his passes for 1,777 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also ran for 371 yards and eight scores. That effort led the Bulldogs to a 9-2 record and the NCAA Championships.
Languishing on the bench before the interview began, Martinez spotted a passing teammate and said, “Hey Mr. Calves. You’re all calves and no knees.”
That’s Martinez, a superstar and scholar, but one who jokes with teammates and cracks wise about himself. When I said that as a Redlands native and a Yucaipa grad and a resident of Highland, he covered almost our entire circulation area, he deadpanned, “Hey, I like to follow the tabloids,” HA HA HA.” He has that unique laugh to punctuate quips. It endears.
But the best part about Martinez is his nickname: Godzilla. It was thrust upon him as a kid. Seems his head dwarfed his body. Price found out when Martinez transferred as a sophomore from Citrus Valley to Yucaipa.
“The first time I ever met Zilla – I don’t think I’ve ever called him Nathan – he transferred into school, and he was 5-6, 120 pounds,” Price said. “I’m looking at the kid and I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way he’s ever going to be a varsity player.”
By senior year he was 5-foot-10, 170 pounds and he went off. The Thunderbird star threw for 3,050 yards and 40 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also ran for 386 yards and nine scores.
“The No. 1 thing that stood out to me was his leadership,” Price said. “You could see it right away.”
Credit his parents, Steve and Cheri Martinez. Steve was a golfer at San Diego State and owns a payroll company. Cheri was a cheerleader at San Gorgonio High School and works with Steve.
“He’s an amazing son,” Cheri said. “He works harder than anyone I’ve known.”
The QB’s brother Nick Martinez, 25, is no slouch. He was a three-year varsity golfer at Citrus Valley and is now a certified public accountant in La Jolla. QB1 is a math whiz too. He’s a fifth-year major in business management, with a minor in accounting.
He will receive his Masters degree after the season. The goal: To join his dad’s firm or coach. Regarding the former, he works 40 hours per week for his dad during the summer. And 15 per week during the season.
“You learn to understand workloads, and how to work with different groups,” Martinez said. Shaking my head in amazement during a phone interview with Cheri, I said, “There must be something he does wrong -- he must leave his socks on the floor or something.”
“He did try baseball for a while and he wasn’t a good batter,” Cheri said. “And once he got in a pickle (rundown) between third base and home. He thought it was stupid and tackled the runner, then stood over him. We were glad when his baseball career was short-lived.”
Bulldog coaches are happy Martinez chose football too. He has thrown, juked, and led the Bulldogs to glory in his three years behind center.
Interview now over, Martinez stood and said, “Good, now I can get out these smelly pads. You have a good night.” Then he strode toward more glory, and the most secure of tomorrows. Reach John Murphy@redlandscommunitynews.com