COLUMBUS, Ohio — Days before arriving at Ohio State, Tate Martell received some good-natured ribbing from one of his future Buckeye teammates.
“When we played him in the Army (All-American Bowl), I told him we were going to give him his first loss in high school,” 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade recalled with a smile.
Wade’s proclamation would prove prophetic, with his East squad knocking off Martell’s West team, 27-17. For Martell, it marked the first game he had lost as a starting quarterback in at least 45 contests — probably more. In three seasons at Las Vegas prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman, the 4-star signal-caller never lost a start.
Despite being a relative shock to his system, the All-Star game loss doesn’t seem to be lingering with Martell — or at least if it is, he isn’t letting on. After all, as an early enrollee at Ohio State, the second-ranked dual threat quarterback in the 2017 class now has much bigger things on his mind.
Like competing for playing time in his freshman season.
That’s right, despite J.T. Barrett returning for his senior season and two other formerly highly-touted quarterbacks also existing on the Buckeyes’ roster, Martell wants to find a way to get on the field in 2017. Recent history would prove his goal difficult. In each of his first five recruiting classes in Columbus, Meyer has redshirted the quarterback.
Martell, however, doesn’t see why he has to be the sixth.
“I’m not thinking about 12 months (from now),” Martell said on Wednesday. “I’m thinking about right now. I want to play. I just know I’m going to go out there and do everything I can.”
That flies in the face of what many have considered conventional wisdom when it comes to Martell’s career path. With Barrett back, there’s not an immediate need for an additional quarterback on Ohio State’s roster.
Most figured Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins would backup the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and then compete with Martell — and potentially 2018 5-star prospect Emory Jones — for the right to succeed Barrett in 2018.
Martell doesn’t see it that way.
“If I don’t play (in 2017), that’s on me,” he said. “Coach Meyer’s going to play the best guy, and if I go prove that — that’s not my decision to make or anything, but I’m thinking about right now.”
Anybody who has followed Martell’s storied prep career is already plenty familiar with his competitive nature. The 2016 USA Today Offensive Player of the Year has drawn comparisons to 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for his freewheeling playing style on the field and a perceived fiery attitude off of it.
Having at one point been committed to play at Washington — in middle school — and Texas A&M after that, Martell is hardly a stranger when it comes to college football’s spotlight. And as he begins his college career, the San Diego native isn’t concerned with the preconceived notions that are often attached to him.
Take for instance his height. Listed at 5-foot-10, some have questioned whether or not Martell will be able to replicate his high school success at the college level — or beyond. Whereas even a year ago, that might have provided him with a chip on his shoulder, Martell no longer seems to mind.
After all, there’s a reason he was one of the most coveted quarterbacks in the 2017 class.
“I don’t really care anymore, to be honest with you,” Martell said when asked about his height. “At this point, I’m at Ohio State. My job is to compete and do my job.”
As for the NFL, that too, is already on Martell’s mind. In fact, it’s the ultimate goal. That might help explain why he was unafraid to sign with the Buckeyes, whose crowded quarterback depth chart makes for a less clear path to playing time than that of other schools.
“This is not where I want to stop,” Martell said. “This is just a part of the process of just trying to keep going. So if I don’t play here, that’s going to be on myself. That’s my own fault for not being good enough. But I’m coming here and I want to play. That’s what it is.”
That sort of mindset should serve Martell well in his time at Ohio State.
Perhaps it won’t be long until he has the opportunity to bring his personal one-game losing streak to an end.
“I don’t care who I’m competing with,” Martell said. “I want to play.”