Martinez embracing role more than ever before

2013-03-02T21:00:00Z 2013-04-18T19:47:35Z Martinez embracing role more than ever beforeBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

More than a year had passed without anything being posted on the Twitter account with the handle “TMAG1C.”

The drought ended Feb. 1. A tweet. Then five more tweets Feb. 6. Then a few more the next day …

The account had been without activity long enough that one former Husker teammate asked: “Is this really Taylor?”

Yeah, that’s Nebraska’s quarterback. Tweeting inspirational quotes. Answering questions from fans. Joking with teammates. Sticking up for the Lakers. Even posting pictures of himself pheasant hunting for the first time.

Maybe it’s just a small glimpse of the Taylor Martinez fans and media rarely got to see away from the cameras in the earlier years in his career. But maybe, as Martinez hinted when he met the media Saturday, it’s also an indication of something more.

“It’s coming to a point where I’m about to leave, so you've just got to enjoy it while it’s here,” Martinez said after the Huskers began spring practice.

Martinez will never be a fountain of words. He wasn’t Saturday and won’t be in his next interview.

But he will tell you he’s more comfortable now than he’s ever been as the starting quarterback at Nebraska. Carry that title around and you're immediately one of the five most recognizable people in the state.

It’s a role that takes getting used to. It’s a role Martinez says he's learned to embrace, now more than ever.

“I’m really comfortable with it,” he said. “I think people are starting to grow on me.”

People have come up to Martinez in stores or restaurants since he’s been the Husker quarterback.

But strangers stop him to say hello more now than they used to.

“I’m fine with it,” Martinez said. “I like it.”

He isn’t putting up a wall to block what people are saying about him either — whether it be good or bad.

“Sometimes I listen to it. Some of the good stuff. And some of the bad stuff I read just to kind of (tick) me off a little bit.”

There's motivation that can come from hearing the bad stuff, he says.

He has more total yards than any Husker. And his 2,858 career rushing yards are the most of any returning college player in the country.

He also produced one of the greatest individual plays in Husker history with his 76-yard touchdown scramble against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But questions remain: Can Martinez cut down on turnovers? Can he bring home a championship?

Solve the first of those things and maybe the second comes with it.

While Martinez completed a very respectable 62 percent of his passes last year, he also threw 12 interceptions. And he had eight of Nebraska's 22 lost fumbles, a total that was worst in the country.

In reviewing last year's games, Martinez said it was easy to see the reasons for some turnovers. Others are not so easily explained.

"Sometimes we were trailing, and sometimes maybe I had to make a play or maybe Ameer (Abdullah) had to make a play, or Rex (Burkhead) or anybody," Martinez said. "Maybe sometimes we tend to force stuff when we’re trailing."

That was certainly part of it. But offensive coordinator Tim Beck said there is as much danger in a quarterback trying to do too much when things are seemingly going his way.

One of his challenges to Martinez is to not let those moments get the best of him and interfere with his decision-making.

"Sometimes you can be riding a momentum wave and feeling pretty good, because you're doing some good things, you feel invincible," Beck said. "You still have to play within the system."

The Huskers will continue to play fast. In fact, Beck's offense might even try to go a little faster at times in 2013.

That's fine with the quarterback.

"With everyone returning on offense, we know the plays really well and I think we can pick up this pace a lot more," Martinez said.

Whether Martinez can top the school-record 3,890 yards he put up last season and make a push for individual accolades (he's on some preseason Heisman Trophy short lists) remains to be seen.

But Martinez said he's going to continue to put heavy emphasis on his footwork and mechanics, and is likely to do some extra work with California-based quarterbacks coach Steve Calhoun this summer.

"I think there’s a lot more out there for me to prove," Martinez said. "And I think that’s what I’m all about. A lot of people doubt me, and I think I just come out there and prove myself every time."

The motivation is there. Now, the hope for a big payoff.

Senior year? He said it makes him excited and sad at the same time.

"I just can’t wait for the season to start and to show the country what we have.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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