A few years ago, I ventured to Flathead Lake, Mont. to spend a few hours with Brock Osweiler and his family. Osweiler had committed near the end of his freshman year to Gonzaga to play basketball.
You could hardly have had a more mature 15-year-old. Osweiler was smart, well spoken and advanced beyond his years, seemingly the perfect kind of kid to decide three years early where he wanted to attend college.
Then he not only switched schools, he switched sports. He decided he liked Arizona State’s climate better than Spokane’s, and chucking a football more than playing the high post.
I bring it up because of Washington’s commitment gained this week from 14-year-old quarterback Tate Martell. Fourteen is young enough, but the fact he’s not yet in eighth grade makes him sound younger.
What, there weren’t any 15-year-olds out there for Steve Sarkisian to recruit to Washington?
The path from early commitment to college success is littered with so many examples of the process going awry, they’re too numerous to list here.
In addition to whatever boost Martell could eventually bring the Huskies, I suspect Sarkisian sees some value in the buzz the story creates. But it’s sort of a tawdry attention.
Meanwhile, you’ve got statements coming from Martell’s dad Al and quarterback guru Steve Clarkson that border on disturbing.
The senior Martell told Bob Condotta of the Times that he was puzzled at the debate of whether a prospect so young should accept a scholarship right now, saying, “Adults that ask that question, it makes me scratch my head.” And: “You put this opportunity in front of 100 14-year-olds, and I guarantee you, you’re probably at 100 percent (who would accept it).”
OK. So if Tate Martell is that good, he’ll have other offers down the road (like say, when he’s 15). And if he’s not, and somehow he materializes as just an average quarterback when he’s 18, the possibility exists Washington could pull the offer. If Martell rides the commitment into a scholarship despite leveling off, will the money saved be worth the incessant references to him as the kid who committed to the UW at 14?
Of course, Clarkson is convinced Martell will never be average. He told Sarkisian, “If you could clone Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre, you’d have Tate Martell.” What, no notes of Peyton Manning, no tones of Tom Brady in there?
If you were making book on whether Sarkisian will be at Washington in February of 2017, when Martell can sign a letter of intent, I’d guess the odds would be something less than 50 percent. (But if Martell is that good, maybe he shortens the odds.)
Let the kid be a kid. Or, in the words of the late crooner Jim Croce, “Robbin’ the cradle’s worse than robbin’ the tomb.”