The article below originally appeared on SFGate.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Of all the things this job has permitted me to do, from covering three World Series to attending five Olympics, none has been more enjoyable than a 3 1/2 -hour lunch with Tom Martinez, the multipurpose coach and teacher at the College of San Mateo.
After he died Tuesday, most of the headlines identified Martinez as Tom Brady’s personal quarterback coach, because that’s what made him famous. But it was only a sliver of who he was.
We met five years ago at a San Mateo restaurant to talk about his predraft tutoring session in Arizona with JaMarcus Russell. The conversation meandered down delightful side streets.
Martinez loved talking about the young women he had coached in an array of sports, many of whom stayed in touch years later, like extended family. He reminded me that Brady’s sisters were great athletes, too.
Everything Martinez said had a positive lilt to it. He had that special ability to motivate others, because disappointing him wouldn’t feel right.
He made one really memorable point about Russell, whose agents had arranged for the pair to work together. The coach could tell that the young quarterback, about to become the Raiders’ No. 1 draft pick, didn’t know whom to trust. A sympathetic Martinez said that he had to work to build a rapport with Russell and that he worried about the quarterback ending up in the wrong organization. He did not say if the Raiders would be a bad match.
The team had briefly considered hiring Martinez as an assistant coach, but the job prospect fizzled as 31-year-old head coach Lane Kiffin picked his first staff.
Martinez pointed out how extraordinary it was that Bill Belichick had never balked at Brady’s reliance on his hometown mentor. Martinez was an outsider, a longtime junior-college teacher, yet the Patriots coach, he said, made him feel completely welcome when he turned up to fine-tune Brady’s mechanics.
Then the conversation turned back to more of the unknown athletes he had coached, who seemed to matter as much as Brady.
A memorial service will be Friday at 2 pm at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.