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He's the man behind The Man

Passing guru Tom Martinez is the personal coach who helped turn Tom Brady into a Super Bowl MVP.

December 12, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

SAN MATEO, CALIF. — The football owns a place of honor, on a shelf in the at-home office of Tom Martinez in nearby Menlo Park, a couple of two-minute drills from here.

Coach Martinez

Thanks

The first of many

9/30/01

Patriots 44, Colts 13

Tom Brady #12

That's what is written on the game ball, awarded by New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick to Brady after Brady's first game as a starting quarterback. Brady appropriately passed it on to Martinez.

While Brady, 29, has won three Super Bowls as quarterback of the Patriots and was the most valuable player in two of them, his real go-to guy this season isn't Jabar Gaffney or Chad Jackson or even Doug Gabriel. It's Martinez, a 61-year-old former football coach at the College of San Mateo, who has been Brady's passing guru since the quarterback was 13.

Martinez might know more about Brady's technique for passing the football than Brady himself, which is what happens when an All-Pro such as Brady trusts the coaching he receives from Martinez so much that they get together several times a year for some fine-tuning.

"Tom's a key reason why I've been fortunate to have success in college and the NFL," Brady said in a telephone interview. "I think the world of him professionally and personally. I still consult with him, and he tunes me up when I need him."

Brady has obviously been doing something right for years, and so has Martinez, in a quiet way, which is the way he wants it.

"I'm just a small-time guy," Martinez said. "I'm just a guppy in the ocean. It's not like anybody is going to run up and pat me on the back, or you're going to get bonuses or something, but when Tom Brady chooses to come back to me when he can go to whomever he wants to, well, that's really something I'm very grateful for."

In fact, Martinez said Monday he'd be on the lookout for correspondence from Brady after the Patriots' 21-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins a day earlier. Brady had his worst game of the season, competing 12 of 25 passes for only 78 yards. Martinez didn't expect to get a telephone call from Brady, but he said he might get an e-mail, though he had not yet checked to see whether Brady had contacted him.

Martinez was the 1961 All-City quarterback in San Francisco at what was then Poly High and coached football at the College of San Mateo, a community college, for 32 years. He also coached women's softball and ran a softball hitting camp at CSM, where one of his pupils was Hillsdale High School's Maureen Brady. She brought along her 10-year-old brother, Tom, from time to time.

Soon after Martinez began his quarterback camp on the CSM campus, Brady, from Junipero Serra High, became a regular. He wasn't alone, and such noteworthy college players as John Elway, Dan McGwire, Rob Johnson, Gino Torretta and Todd Marinovich were also instructed in the precision mechanics of Martinez.

"I'm a fundamentalist in teaching technique," Martinez said. "It means detail. Even to this day, I consider myself as detailed in technique of quarterback play as anybody I've seen."

Money was a problem, and Martinez couldn't afford a 16-millimeter camera or film, so he trained his eyes to be his camera. What he was looking for was the unpolished gem, not the finished stone.

At 13, Brady was the youngest player at Martinez's quarterback camp. "Everybody says, 'Could you see him being Super Bowl MVP?' No, of course not. Anyone who said that would be lying," Martinez recalled.

"But every year, in the off-season, since he was 13, he'll come to camp. He'll walk in, I've been working with the kids for three days or so already, and when he's there, I let him talk, and he can repeat everything I've ever taught him verbatim.

"He has a checklist of everything I've taught him."

Brady invited Martinez to the Patriots' minicamp again before this season and said he wanted to concentrate on accuracy. In Martinez's view, the definition of accuracy is not about the percentage of completed passes, but rather putting the ball where you intend to throw it.

And Brady is right there with the best Martinez has seen among the elite who have passed through the Bay Area, along with Jim Plunkett, Elway, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Steve Bartkowski.

Martinez has a simple explanation for why his association with Brady has endured: "He's a perfectionist and I'm a perfectionist."

Watching old film of Montana, Martinez was captivated by how the 49ers quarterback always seemed to get the football to his receivers so they never had to break stride. In Martinez's view, the play should rarely end because the receiver has to slide to catch the football. That's accuracy in throwing the football, he said.

As a result, the NFL is a game of third down, Martinez said.

"If you make it on third down, you keep going. On defense, you stop them on third down and you get off the field."

But it's Martinez's expertise about the mechanics of throwing that keep him tied to Brady, mechanically and probably also a little emotionally.

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