When Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost named Adrian Martinez the starting quarterback on Sunday, he set the table to make Husker history. When Martinez takes the field against Akron on September 1, he will become the first true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback for the Big Red.
"We picked the guy we feel gives us the best chance to win," Frost said on Monday. "It was a close battle. I think Adrian's athletic ability was probably the factor."
Martinez was Frost's hand-picked recruit the day he left UCF to come back home. And Martinez chose to graduate high school early to enroll at NU to compete for the starting job. His hard work paid off as he was named the start over Tristan Gebbia, who appears to be leaving Nebraska after not being named the starter.
"I really just spilled my guts for it," Martinez said about the competition. "I believe that if you don't believe in yourself, I don't think anyone will."
Martinez will lead the NU offense out onto the field Saturday at Memorial Stadium despite not playing in a competitive football game, other than an all-star game in January, in nearly two years.
"It's an honor to be the starting quarterback at this university and I don't really feel that type of pressure in a sense that I haven't played since my junior year," said Martinez. "I've been practicing since spring. I think I'm used to that speed."
In just eight short months, Martinez has earned the respect of his Husker teammates, many of them years older than him.
"I think it's just working hard," Martinez said. "I think guys respect a player who puts it all out there on the field. I try to demand the most out of my teammates and they do the same for me."
"When he first got here, I could tell what kind of kid he was," said senior linebacker Luke Gifford. "He worked his butt off the day. He stepped on campus and you can tell he's got the confidence to him a kid should have when you're starting as a true freshman."
Martinez said he rode his scooter to Memorial Stadium last Saturday when he found out he'd earn the starting nod. He also admitted he actually wasn't as happy as he thought he'd be.
"It's almost five minutes later I was already thinking about Akron," said Martinez. "I want to win. When we win, that's when I'll be on cloud nine for that. The mission hasn't been accomplished yet in my mind."
Martinez and the Huskers can complete that mission starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday night in Lincoln.