The news trucked Cody Green like a linebacker with a full head of steam.
Green was an 18-year-old backup quarterback to Zac Lee through the first half of Nebraska’s 2009 season. But there he was, sitting in the office of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and digesting the revelation that he would be starting at Baylor the next week.
When the decision went public, Green became the most recognizable student-athlete on campus.
Now the quarterbacks coach at Missouri Southern State, Green has spent some time this week reflecting on that autumn, when he became the second Nebraska true freshman ever to start at quarterback. The third will be this weekend, when Adrian Martinez takes the field against Akron.
“In the dorms, everybody is knocking on his door,” Green said of Martinez. “Everybody wants to meet him. Everybody wants to say hello and good luck.”
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For Green, that day at Baylor was a mixed bag. The Texas native completed 12 of 21 passes for 128 yards and rushed eight times for 43. But he also threw an interception and lost a fumble. Nebraska won 20-10.
What really helped Green settle in — and he suspects the same will be true for Martinez — was when older teammates reassured him in the heat of battle. Senior center Jacob Hickman was that calming presence for Green in his first start.
In his only other freshman start the next week at home against Oklahoma, it was Ndamukong Suh who approached him and said the defense had his back. Sure enough, even after Green was lifted following four penalty-filled drives that didn’t produce a first down, the Blackshirts rose up in a 10-3 Nebraska win.
“It’s certain things like that that (Martinez) is going to have that will solidify him being the guy — being able to step in there and really command the offense and command the team the way they need,” Green said.
The former QB often fell back on advice from upperclassmen: You’re never as good as people say you are, but you’re never as bad as they say, either. It helped keep him grounded when he broke off a 49-yard run on a quarterback counter against Florida Atlantic in his first collegiate game that had him feeling like he was in high school. It encouraged him when Oklahoma defensive lineman Gerald McCoy — the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft — grabbed him by the shoulder pads and effortlessly shoved him down on an option run.
But that first start? That’s worth soaking in.
“It’s something that you don’t ever forget,” Green said. “You’re nervous, you’re excited, you’re a little bit scared. You don’t know what to expect. But you gotta fall back on the preparation when it comes down to it.”
Green transferred to Tulsa after two seasons.
The only other Nebraska quarterback to start a game as a true freshman remains the school’s gold standard at the position. Tommie Frazier, who did not respond to multiple interview requests from The World-Herald, took the lead job in NU’s sixth game in 1992, finishing 5-2 as a starter that year and eventually 33-3 overall with a pair of national titles.
Other former Nebraska QBs have offered advice to Martinez. Taylor Martinez, who started 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and is not related to Adrian, tweeted a “best of luck” message to the current newcomer this week. Coach Scott Frost, who started at the position for the Huskers in 1996 and 1997, has told him to keep a level head, ignore critics and be aware that others are watching.
Adrian Martinez said he’s trying not to think about emerging from the Memorial Stadium tunnel — “I want to get some sleep this week” — and instead plans to default to the past eight months of preparation with Nebraska’s staff.
Green said there’s only one reasonable standard fans should have for Martinez this weekend.
“Go out there and just execute,” Green said. “I hate putting numbers on it because I’m not a big statistical guy. I always say stats are for losers. The most important stat of all is the win column. I think the reasonable outcome is to get the ‘W,’ to go out there and play within the offense, whatever form that is.”