Nathan Martinez was tagged with a nickname at a very early age. Godzilla … or ‘Zilla for short.
“When I was about 1, my brother got a train set for Christmas,” Martinez recalled with a laugh. “My dad set it up for him. And then I came in with a bottle hanging out of my mouth, and I just crushed it all.”
As the years passed, the nickname has stuck. And now, as the varsity quarterback at Yucaipa High School in Southern California, Martinez is doing his damage on the football field.
As a sophomore last year, Martinez split time at QB in the first three games and took control of the starting job in Game 4. “That was one of my main goals,” he said.
Playing well was another obvious goal, and Martinez accomplished that one as well. Despite being only 14 years old at the start of the season, he completed 107 of 188 passes for 1,613 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Martinez earned First Team All-Citrus Belt League honors at the end of the season.
“I was very happy with my first season on varsity,” he said. “Obviously, making All-Conference was something I was really excited about. But just getting to know all the varsity players, that was really important.”
As he prepares to quarterback the Thunderbirds as a junior, look for even more impressive numbers from Martinez.
“After last season, everything seems to be coming a lot easier,” the 5-foot-9, 155-pounder said. “The speed of the game has really slowed down for me. Last year, I did really good extending the play. When stuff hit the fan, I was able to make things happen. But I need to work at staying in the pocket. When I don’t have to roll out, I need to stay in.”
The best quarterbacks are always able to adjust, and Martinez certainly is in that category.
Training with NFA since he was 7 years old has helped him handle all of the challenges that come with playing such a key position.
“NFA, they were the first training that I ever had as a quarterback so I’ve never known anything else,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’ve easily become the best quarterback I can be because of their help.”
In July, Martinez competed at the Duel – NFA’s showcase event in Massillon, Ohio. Among incoming juniors, he finished in second place.
“I expected to place pretty high out there,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know how high, but I was shooting for Top 5. I missed a lot of throws, a lot of easy ones, so I was excited to be second.”
Martinez is carrying the excitement into the upcoming season at Yucaipa. “We’re going to try to make a push at being league champs,” he said. “Last year, we lost four games in the last minute. We started about 16 sophomores last year. With a young team like that, we expect to have a shot at being league champs.”