I’ve spent much of the past few hours talking with Steve Clarkson, Tate Martell and Tate Martell’s father, Al, about the news that broke earlier today of Tate Martell’s commitment to UW.
It’s definitely an eyebrow-raiser for a 14-year-old entering the eighth grade to make such a commitment — and it’s nothing that anyone at UW can comment on.
But Al and Tate Martell and Steve Clarkson all said they are thoroughly comfortable with the decision.
Tate Martell said he made the decision Wednesday after he and his family met with UW coach Steve Sarkisian in Los Angeles.
“I really didn’t expect it to happen at this point, at how young I am,” he said. “It’s just weird, weird but really cool. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Martell’s father Al, a former wrestler at Fresno State, told the Times that he had no issues with his son being offered and accepting a scholarship at such a young age, adding “adults that ask that question, it makes me scratch my head.”
He said his son has loved football since he was 3-4 years old and used to draw up plays to send to former San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer. He said his son has been playing football seriously since age 7 with the eye toward getting a college scholarship.
“You put this opportunity in front of 100 14-year-olds and I guarantee you that you are at probably 100 percent (would take it),” he said.
Said Clarkson: “The kid and the family look at it like he has an opportunity to go to a place that he would consider in four or five years to be home,” said Clarkson, who has earned some renown as a quarterback guru — here’s a story from the LA Times from earlier this year — including his work with Steve Sarkisian more than 20 years ago.
It was that relationship that’s at the heart of this commitment. Clarkson said he showed Sarkisian some film of Martell earlier this year that Sarkisian “was just thrown back by his ability.” He said he told Sarkisian that “if you could clone Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre, you would have Tate Martell and that just resonated.”
Those are pretty heady comparisons, indeed. But Clarkson said the early commitment won’t put pressure on Martell but rather will take it off since he has the comfort of already knowing he has a scholarship in hand.
And Clarkson said observers also shouldn’t worry much that UW might not know exactly what it is getting, saying that a 14-year old today is like “19 years old in development because these kids are far better coached and more exposed” than in the past.
As noted in an ESPN story, Martell met Jake Locker at one of Clarkson’s camps in the summer of 2010 and said that also helped lay the foundation for becoming a Husky. “That’s where I got my first thing that Washington is pretty cool,” he said.
Tate Martell echoed that he doesn’t think anyone should be concerned that he is making such a decision so early.
“I’m totally comfortable (with it),” he said. “I already looked at some of the classes up there and what I want to do already.”
Martell is being home-schooled this year and will later choose a high school in the southern California. Al Martell said his son is a year older than his class after he was held back in the seventh grade. Martell said his son is “a 4.0 student” but that the decision was made to allow him to be a year older to have more physical and mental maturity as he goes through high school and enters college, which he said some other QBs have done.
“Statistics don’t lie,” he said. “We’re just repeating the formula for success. He’ll enter his freshman year of high school bigger, faster and stronger and hopefully just a little bit older with a different maturity level.”
Al Martell said he knows a lot can happen in five years but that he considers the commitment solid.
“I use the analogy of a marriage,” he said. “You get engaged and you might not get married for two years, and a lot can happen in there. But we are starting a relationship right now with all intention of keeping the commitment that we’ve got and growing the relationship and where other distractions of offers and things like that, we’ll overlook them because we are happy where we are at.”
Finally, since this is definitely a hot-button topic, the Times is conducting this poll tonight asking for your thoughts: