The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Tom Martinez, who has garnered a lot of attention for being Tom Brady’s longtime personal quarterback coach, was first known as a first-rate coach at College of San Mateo.
Martinez died of heart attack around 1 p.m. Tuesday while receiving a dialysis treatment. It was his 67th birthday.
“He was 66 and along with wife, Olivia, leaves three children … their spouses … six grandchildren and hundreds of young athletes in the Bay Area and around the country,” said Olivia Martinez in an email.
“Tom Martinez was a … physically and strong-willed person,” said former CSM athletic director Gary Dilley. “He fought a real battle with his ailments. It’s just a shame he passed.”
Dilley, who served as the school’s athletic director for 18 years from 1981 to 2006, said Martinez was on the panel that interviewed the candidates for the athletic director’s job when Dilley applied for the position.
“I’ve always been very appreciative to him for being one of the people [who] supported my selection,” Dilley said.
Last spring, Martinez faced his greatest challenge when doctors told him he had months (or less) to live, due to a combination of kidney and heart problems. His prognosis was, at least temporarily, debunked when specialists discovered that it was his pacemaker that was literally killing him. The pacemaker was turned off in June and he has been fighting to get stronger, while awaiting a kidney transplant.
Martinez had what can only be described as a stellar career coaching at College of San Mateo. Hired to coach football and teach physical education, he added softball and women’s basketball to his coaching load. It was considered a unique feat in modern-day community college annals to be the head coach of three teams at the same time.
Martinez’s 1,400 career wins in football, basketball (state record 565), and softball (800) over 32 years made him the “winningest” coach in California Community College history.
His teams won 32 championships.
“He really was the representation of Bulldog athletics,” Dilley said. “It’s great [Martinez] made such a great contribution to Tom Brady, but really the mark he made was in the hearts he trained and coached at CSM.
“There are going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of women he coached in softball and basketball (who will be sad by his passing). They were given the same kind of expectations he gave to his football players and he would accept nothing less from their efforts.”
According to the College of San Mateo, Martinez was most proud of the fact none of his players in any sport ever experienced a losing season during his CSM tenure.
Martinez began his coaching career in 1967, following his graduation from San Francisco State University, where he was hired to coach football and physical education. He then accepted a teaching and coaching job at Jefferson High School in Daly City where he was a math teacher and coached football and baseball. In 1974, after earning his master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University, he moved to College of San Mateo, where he became head women’s basketball coach, women’s softball coach and assistant football coach. The offense and quarterbacks soon became his specialty.
During football games, his job was to call plays from up in the stands and, when he became head football coach at CSM, he began the first of what were unorthodox and, at times, controversial moves. Unlike most head coaches, Martinez remained in the stands during football games so he could continue to call plays and maximize his talent for quickly assessing, diagnosing and prescribing “fixes” for plays that did not work. His ability to make adjustments in both offensive and defensive strategy would become legend in the Golden Gate Conference, as it was known in those days. Fans would often seek out seating below his coaching station in the stands so that they could hear his “not so subtle” play calling and colorful banter.
He has been named to the halls of fame for San Mateo County, Daly City, San Francisco State University, the California Community College Softball Association and the California Community College Women’s Basketball Association. Most recently, Martinez was named to the initial Hall of Fame Class at the College of San Mateo.
After retiring from CSM in 2007, Martinez began a highly successful career as quarterback coach and mentor to hundreds of young men all over the country.
His fame and notoriety grew exponentially when one of his early students, Tom Brady, led the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. Referred to as the “quarterback whisperer” by the national sports media, Martinez continued to coach and mentor quarterbacks from grade school to the pros.
He prepared JaMarcus Russell for the NFL Combine, making him the number one draft choice that year. Other NFL quarterbacks he worked with include Matt Cassell, when he was with New England; Richard Bartels, for the Arizona Cardinals; Matt Gutierrez of the Green Bay Packers; and Danny Southwick of the Oakland Raiders. This past year, he helped prepare Ricky Stanzi for the Combine and NFL Draft to Kansas City and ran Jeremiah Masoli’s Pro Day at Ole Miss. Martinez worked with Brady in New England just prior to the NFL opener.
Martinez lived in Menlo Park with his wife of 45 years, Olivia Martinez. His three children, Tom, Lisa and Linda, are graduates of the University of California at Santa Barbara, UCLA and Cal Berkeley, respectively.
“He had a huge heart and he shared a good time with his kids,” Dilley said. “A great family man.”