During his senior prep football season at Arroyo Grande, Calif., Jamie Martin was courted by all the Pac-10 schools. Washington was serious but eventually took instead a quarterback from 30 miles away who's starting now. Martin doesn't know why the whole Pac-10 backed off on him, but he had Southern Methodist, Northern Arizona and Weber State to choose from. He liked Weber. "They throw the ball," says Martin.
Martin arrived in Ogden when Weber great Jeff Carlson was a senior, so he was redshirted. That was hard. "I never sat before," Martin says.After his redshirt season in 1988, he sprained an ankle playing basketball just before spring practice began, and Weber's "quarterback of the future" lost weeks of practice and an expected starting job to open the 1989 season.
When Coach Dave Arslanian finally did give the redshirt freshman a start, on Nov. 4, 1989, he threw six interceptions and lost a home game 27-10 to Eastern Washington. "It was just a nightmare. Everything that could go wrong went wrong," says Martin. "It's something to keep in the back of my mind and maybe inspire me," he says.
"What a horrible way to start."
What a great way to come back.
The kid who was passed over, sat out, hurt and picked off definitely knew how to pick it up.
Martin has just completed his sophomore season at Weber. He won the NCAA Division I-AA total-offense championship (3,713 yards) and was named Big Sky Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He set five Weber single-season records - for passes attempted and completed (428/256), completion percentage (.598), pass efficiency (143.2) and yards (3,700) - and the single-game record for yards passing (504). He was named to the Sports Network All-America first team.
Any wonder he's Deseret News Athlete of the Month for November?
Now 14 starts into his college career, and with some 20 starts still available to him, he's just a few games' worth of stats away from Weber's two biggest records. He's third behind Tim Bernal and Carlson in both career passing and career total offense. In passing, he has 4,875 yards to Carlson's record of 6,147. In total offense, Carlson leads with 5,879, and Martin has 4,821.
"He's a jewel," says Arslanian, who marvels that since Eastern Washington 1989, Martin hasn't had a poor game. Arslanian, in fact, has never had to remove him from a game to settle him down or motivate him. "He's played well every week," he says.
In his rematch with Eastern Washington this season, he passed for what was then a career-high 362 yards and three touchdowns on Oct. 6 and had what was then the fourth-best single-game total-offense mark in Weber history, 424 yards, in a 36-34 win at Cheney, Wash. He was named national player of the week.
The next week, against Montana, Martin became the third Big Sky QB to pass for more than 500 yards in one game, breaking the school record with 504. A week later, he and the Wildcats threw a big scare into then-unbeaten Wyoming, finally losing 21-12. "That was fun for me, to get a taste of what it's like to play a WAC team," Martin says.
"Jamie has continued to progress," says Arslanian. "He saved his finest game for the last game of the season."
That would be the 27-7 win over McNeese State in Louisiana Nov. 17. Statistically, it wasn't a big deal - three touchdowns, 373 yards passing.
But it was a game that let the coach know how much the kid has grown.
Arslanian says the Cowboys, who finished second in the Southland Conference, had the Wildcats stymied early. "They zoned us pretty well," he remembers. The Wildcats had prepared their game plan for man coverage and long plays and were surprised. A few series into the game, they scrapped their game plan and went with plays that hadn't been practiced that week.
Martin made the adjustments easily. "That to me is a sign of real maturity," says Arslanian. Weber has a large offensive package but, like any team, tailors and trims the week's plays to fit the opponent. For a young QB to be able to make that adjustment smoothly "opens a whole new ballgame to us," Arslanian says.
"It wasn't that big of a deal for me," says Martin. "I just remember they were really stuffing us."
But it was a big step from Eastern Washington 1989, when Arslanian hid Martin from the postgame press so he didn't have to talk about the six interceptions, even though only about three were his fault. "He didn't show it, but he was hurt by it; it shook him," Arslanian recalls.
"I do kinda think about it now and laugh," says Martin, remembering his worst fear after that game was what his new teammates thought of him.
The Wildcats liked him fine the last two games of 1989 - 55-0 and 45-35 wins. "At that time, I knew he had some toughness," says Arslanian.
"It was just confidence," Martin says. At the end of last season, Arslanian took him aside and told him right then that 1990 would be his team; he was the starter. "He told me to take it from there. There wasn't any pressure on me," Martin says.
"There were still some small doubts in my mind coming into this season - I hadn't played a good team (EWU, Southwest State, Idaho State) last year."
Though he'd thrown for 300+ yards in three straight games going into the rematch with EWU this season, that's the game he counts the most important of his career.