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Martinez brothers serious about football, family
LAGUNA BEACH — Taylor Martinez had had enough of the in-game text updates and online telecasts on Hudl. It was a Friday morning early last December, and the Nebraska quarterback was in the midst of game preparations for the upcoming Capital One Bowl.
Martinez didn't technically have a day off, but he had about a 24-hour window to work with. It gave him just enough time to make the one-hour drive from Lincoln to Omaha, catch a flight to John Wayne Airport, and drive directly to Laguna Beach High, fighting through traffic to arrive shortly after kickoff for the Breakers' CIF-SS semifinal playoff game against Corona del Mar. He then flew back to Nebraska early the next morning so that he wouldn't miss a practice.
One of the best college football players was on a mission to see one of Orange County's best high school football players. OK, so they are brothers. But Taylor Martinez, Nebraska's three-year starting quarterback and a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate had yet to see younger brother Drake, an All-County running back and safety, play for Laguna Beach live.
"It was very special to me," Taylor Martinez said. "I knew I couldn't make it to their next game if they went to the championship. I wanted to give my support."
On Saturday it will be Drake's turn, as he and about 50 family members and friends will convene at the Rose Bowl to watch Nebraska take on UCLA. It will be the first time Drake sees Taylor play for Nebraska live.
"Hard work pays off," Drake said, shedding light on just how much his brother inspires him.
Drake was in eighth grade when Taylor, who prepped at Centennial High of Corona, signed with Nebraska. It was during this time their father, Casey Martinez, sent a video of Drake's Pop Warner highlights, which included one devastating hit in particular, to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
"Bo said he'd offer him (a scholarship) right now, sarcastically," Casey said.
It wasn't funny to Drake, who knew firsthand how hard his brother had worked to earn his scholarship after being snubbed by so many other programs. Drake took after Taylor's example, which had been passed down from their father, a safety at Iowa State whose career was cut short by a knee injury.
"He's focused," Laguna Beach coach Mike Churchill said of Drake. "He's one of those kids, and not everybody does it, that practices hard besides playing hard. It comes from the direction from home. He understands that it doesn't come easy. You got to work hard to get it."
Drake worked his way up to appearing in a few varsity games as a freshman and starting as a sophomore. In the second game of his junior year, he exploded for 313 rushing yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, and a blocked PAT. Nebraska offered him a scholarship the following morning.
By the end of last season, Drake had led Laguna Beach on its deepest playoff run in nearly five decades and rushed for 1,889 yards (while averaging 10.5 yards per carry) and 27 touchdowns.
Drake, Casey and Churchill agree, however, the 6-foot-2, 197-pound senior with a 40 time in the 4.3s is an even better defensive player.
Despite the Nebraska offer, Drake remains under the national radar. His only other offer is from San Diego State, though Churchill said there are about a dozen major programs asking about him. Recruiting coordinators have told the Martinez family they like Drake at five different positions: running back, receiver, safety, linebacker and, pending his growth, defensive end.
"I'll play anywhere," Martinez said. "Wherever I can get on the field fastest at the next level. I'm playing (running back) just to play it right now. I can play it at the next level, I believe. But my main goal is on defense. I think that's the best spot."
Drake's other favorite spot: playing Xbox LIVE with Taylor and younger brother Keaton, a junior receiver and backup safety and quarterback at Laguna Beach. The three proclaim themselves best friends, engaging in nightly video game wars. When they're not on the sticks, they're texting each other. On Friday and Saturday nights in the fall, they're calling each other.
Their bond will make for a sweet reunion this weekend, although there is one spoiler: Taylor won't be able to watch Drake and Keaton play Friday night in the Breakers' home game against University because of Nebraska team restrictions for players on road trips.
Last week, all Taylor missed was Drake breaking a school record with five touchdowns in the first half of Laguna Beach's romp over Bolsa Grande. He sat out the entire second half, which allowed him to be a spectator as Keaton, making his varsity debut, gained 30 yards on a run.
"I was on the sideline running with him as he was running," Drake said. "He got pushed out on the sidelines and I was right there. I head-butted him without a helmet on. I don't know how smart that was. I was just in the mode. Next time I'll keep my helmet on and do it.
"We're just really supportive of each other."
They sure go to great lengths to show it.