It was only last Sunday that renowned quarterback coach Tom Martinez was on the football field of Menlo-Atherton High School, finessing and schooling another one of his numerous Bay Area prodigies.
“He was out there still coaching, still giving it his all,” said Turner Baty, who had met Martinez, his mentor, just five years prior. “That just shows you what type of person he is.”
That was the last day the two saw one another.
Martinez, who had been awaiting a kidney transplant, died of a heart attack Tuesday during a dialysis session. Martinez had just hit 66 years of age — it was his birthday Tuesday.
Baty, who quarterbacked City College of San Francisco last season and will attend the University of Kansas this year, received the news via a phone call from Martinez’ wife, Olivia.
“He’s just become like a second father to me,” said the 19-year-old Baty, who routinely dined and watched film with his coach last season. “It’s really tough. I wasn’t always the best, but he believed in me, believed in my hard work and he definitely made me the quarterback and the man I am today.”
Martinez may have first received national recognition with the rise of San Mateo’s Tom Brady, but his coaching career began well before he trained that 12-year-old who would eventually lead the New England Patriots to three Super Bowl championships.
The coaching icon began his career at the College of San Mateo in 1972, where he skippered football, women’s basketball and eventually softball.
His 1,100 combined wins in all three sports cemented Martinez’s spot as the winningest coach in California community colleges, and he was inducted into CSM’s Hall of Fame last year. He retired from CSM in 2007, but continued to work with numerous quarterbacks, including Brady.
“He’s somebody we’ll really miss,” CSM’s sports information director Fred Baer said. “It’s unfortunate. His health really claimed him earlier than it should have.”
Last June, Martinez was informed that he had only a month to live. After resetting his pacemaker and an aggressive national donor campaign, it looked like Martinez would coach some more.
“It was very traumatic, but he was brave about everything,” Baer said. “He wasn’t going to just accept what appeared to be his fate, and just die quietly. He fought it till the end.”