Ohio State opened the 2017 season with a victory.
For freshman quarterback Tate Martell, the wait must’ve felt like an eternity.
In July of 2012, Martell and his parents met with Steve Sarkisian—then the head coach at the University of Washington—for lunch at a Los Angeles hotel. They made a connection, and Sarkisian had seen enough promise from Martell to give him a verbal offer. Martell committed shortly thereafter. He had just finished seventh grade.
Martell wasn’t even sure where he was going to go to high school yet, but he’d already verbally committed to play college football at Washington. “I got offered by Washington in seventh grade. That was a big moment for me—I was like alright, this is serious now,” Martell recently told STACK. Martell has dreamed of playing in the NFL as far back as he can remember, and Sarkisian had a track record of grooming first-round picks at the position.
But when Sarkisian decided to leave Washington to become the head coach of USC in December of 2013, Martell’s commitment to UW wavered. His play soon garnered him many other options. After transferring to Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas) before his sophomore year, Martell overtook the starting quarterback job and led the team to an undefeated season. He accounted for 45 total touchdowns and just two interceptions en route to his first Gatorade State Player of the Year Award.
Martell soon had offers from a number of powerhouse programs, including Alabama, Michigan and Texas A&M. Just prior to the start of his junior season, Martell committed to Texas A&M. Jake Spavital was a big reason why. Spavital was the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He was just 30 years old, but he’d already tutored the likes of Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel on their way to the NFL. Martell’s game possesses similarities to Manziel’s (he’s undersized but has a rocket arm and is capable of decimating a defense with his feet) and he and Spavital hit it off. “I really liked the school and everything about it,” Martell says. “I was looking forward to playing with (coach Spavital).” With his recruitment seemingly wrapped up, Martell had another fantastic season and Bishop Gorman once again went undefeated.
Then, in January of 2016, Spavital and Texas A&M parted ways. The departure of Spavital—who’s now the offensive coordinator at West Virginia—was enough to make Martell reconsider his decision. “That was my guy,” Martell says. Martell withdrew his verbal commitment shortly thereafter. During the 8 months or so Martell was committed to Texas A&M, he’d earned even more offers. But there was only one that really caught his eye—Ohio State.
“I really wanted to go there because my grandpa went there. Overall, it’s just a great school to go to. All the players get drafted out of there. (You get the chance) to play for coach Meyer. Great academics. Everything,” Martell says. A little over a month after he’d de-committed from A&M, Martell committed to Ohio State. This time, it stuck.
Knowing he would soon be playing in the Shoe, Martell had a dazzling senior season. He was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year after throwing for 41 touchdowns and just one interception while rushing for 1,257 yards and an additional 21 touchdowns. He finished his career at Bishop Gorman a perfect 45-0.
Now, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before Martell is under center at Ohio State. It might not happen this season—he’s currently the team’s third-string quarterback—but he’s impressed during scrimmages and live periods. In the meantime, Martell can serve as one of the most talented scout team players in the nation. This week, he played the role of Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield as the Buckeyes prepared for their epic match-up with Oklahoma.
“My ultimate dream is to make it to the NFL. I’m on the path right now to hopefully get there, and I’m at the right school to do it if I want to get it done,” Martell says.