The Adrian Martinez era at Nebraska is over.
The four-year starting quarterback and only three-time captain in school history is entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal Thursday, bringing finality to an uncertain future at the school.
Martinez has one season of eligibility left to play at the college level and also has a redshirt at his disposal as he sets out to find another school to finish his career with.
He is also in the early stages of rehabilitating from a Nov. 24 operation on his right shoulder. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound signal-caller suffered the shoulder injury on Nov. 20 at Wisconsin and missed Nebraska’s season finale against Iowa on Nov. 26.
In his final start at Nebraska, Martinez broke the school’s all-time offensive yardage record against Wisconsin, moving past former quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and finishing with 10,792.
However, he played the second half of that game with a shoulder injury suffered in the first half. Head coach Scott Frost said NU wasn’t able to determine the extent of the injury at halftime in Madison and Martinez played the second half through what Frost described as “clicking” in his shoulder.
He decided to take part in Nebraska’s senior day festivities before the game against Iowa, just in case it was his last chance.
“Certainly hope it’s not his last (senior day), but if it is, he needs to be honored,” head coach Scott Frost said in the days before the game.
“My heart breaks for the kid,” senior defensive lineman Ben Stille said after the Iowa game. “He put his entire life, his entire body, everything he had into this program. Him not being able to finish this season really hurts. He’s obviously our leader. I’m older than him significantly, I’m two or three years older than him, but I look up to him leadershipwise no matter what and the way he carries himself. He’s a great human being.”
Martinez, of course, first won Nebraska’s starting quarterback job in Aug. 2018 when he beat out Tristan Gebbia ahead of Frost’s first season as the head coach. From there, he started 38 of the 44 games of Frost’s tenure over the past four seasons. He missed one start due to a knee injury in 2018, two due to a left shoulder injury in 2019, two last year when he was benched in favor of Luke McCaffrey and NU’s season finale this year against Iowa.
He holds numerous school records, including career records for 400-yard offensive outings (five) and 300-yard outings (19), career completions (670).
In 2021, he set the NU season record for total offensive yards per game (308) a number that checked in No. 2 in the Big Ten (behind only Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud) and No. 15 nationally.
Martinez in many ways had his best statistical season this fall, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt and accounting for 27 touchdowns (14 passing, 13 rushing) against 13 turnovers.
Had he returned to Nebraska for the 2022 season, he would have done so with a familiar head coach in Frost, but a new offensive coordinator and new quarterbacks coach plus, more than likely, more competition in the quarterback room than he had this past year.
The Huskers now are essentially guaranteed to be looking for a transfer quarterback, which they may well have done even had Martinez stayed, especially given the unknowns about when he will be back to full health.
“That’s my brother,” sophomore running back/receiver Brody Belt said last week. “Whatever he decides, I’m with him.”
Now he’s decided to move on, and the next phase of Husker football is simultaneously one step clearer and one step less certain.
The Huskers have second-year freshman Logan Smothers and freshman Heinrich Haarberg currently on the roster and 2022 quarterback verbal commit Richard Torres as scholarship options going forward, plus veteran walk-on Matt Masker.
Smothers, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native, appeared in six games total for Nebraska this fall and made his first career start on Black Friday against Iowa.
Nebraska, though, will almost certainly be recruiting the transfer portal for a quarterback. Who that might be, though, may not come into focus until Frost has finalized the hire of an offensive coordinator and a quarterbacks coach.
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