Name: Tate Martell
School: Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas
Tate Martell has never lost as a starter since breaking into the lineup for Bishop Gorman the second game of his sophomore season.
He played a year at Poway, Calif., before transferring to Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) in 2015 as a sophomore. His first year with the Gaels, he threw for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns and ran for five. Last season, he threw for 2,608 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for nine touchdowns.
Despite those numbers and an online media presence that includes 24,000 Twitter followers, one measly number is keeping Martell from being ranked higher than No. 35 in the 2017 class by Rivals.com.
He’s only 5-10 or maybe 5-10 1/2.
Martell and the No. 3 Gaels open their season Saturday at No. 5 Cedar Hill (Texas), a game that will be televised on ESPN2 as part of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff.
“Even though he may not be 6-1, he plays like it,” said nationally known quarterback coach Steve Clarkson, who has worked with Martell since the quarterback was 12. “Bishop Gorman runs a pro-style system. He has a wide variety of options and is a true dual threat. He throws extremely well within the pocket and obviously throws well outside the pocket.”
Martell’s ability to make plays and his penchant for drawing attention had some comparing him to Johnny Manziel — before Manziel’s career blew up with self-destructive behavior. But Clarkson said you have to go back further for a more apt comparison for Martell and he’s been saying this since Martell was a two-time MVP of the Clarkson’s Throwback Football League in Southern California.
“He’s a blend of Brett Favre and Fran Tarkenton,” Clarkson said. “He has Tarkenton’s mobility and ability to create and Favre’s gunslinger mentality.”
Martell’s first commitment was to Washington, when he was an eighth-grader. Last summer, he changed his commitment to Texas A&M and this past May, switched it to Ohio State. His multiple commitments, his Twitter wars with opponents and in one case, a Texas A&M assistant, have given Martell a Hollywood-type reputation that doesn’t square with the hard worker that Bishop Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez knows.
“I think he’s gotten really good at being able to handle the pressure and the spotlight, even though he’s created some of that spotlight,” Sanchez said. “Right now, he’s about as humble as he’s been here. He’s gotten better at understanding how to be patient and not force things and let the game go to him. The hardest thing he’s had to overcome is his own persona. People need to know he’s a football player first and he’s a student of the game.”
Martell has conceded that some view his confidence as being cocky. His selection of Ohio State, which already has a junior Heisman hopeful at quarterback in J.T. Barrett and several highly recruited freshman and sophomores, shows he’s not worried about competition.
“You know schools like that are going to be recruiting more than one good quarterback,” Sanchez said. “I think he invites the challenge and goes out to pick the best school for whatever and earn a spot.”
What separates Martell from many high school quarterbacks is his ability to disrupt defenses while still working within Gorman’s system.
“You give him an inch and he’ll take a mile and not in a bad way,” Sanchez said. “There are guys you have to tell what to do, but with him, you don’t want him to be a robot because you don’t want to take away from what he’s athletically capable of doing. You give him parameters and let them go with it. It seems to have worked out so far.”
Clarkson said Martell has continually surprised him.
“I’ve watched him for a long time and he’s still able to show me something every time that I haven’t seen before,” Clarkson said.
“He’s so darn creative within his structure. He can take someone’s recipe and make it work for him.”