The kid from Corona, California won me over sometime last year.
I think it was about the Northwestern game where I finally realized that Taylor Martinez was the Quarterback for Nebraska that I had never thought he would be. At least, when I thought that Bubba Starling could have passed him and either Cody Green or Brion Carnes could throw it better.
It's not that I hoped he would never become it, but I honestly didn't think that he could become the piece that was needed to make it all work.
Oh sure, his freshman year was full of promise. Remember his first carry vs. Western Kentucky? Touchdown. The game versus Washington, where the country found out his potential, followed by the mauling of Kansas State on a Thursday ESPN telecast?
There has been a lot of good in Taylor's career. From the shootout in Stillwater where Martinez went for 5 TD passes, firing for the win over Oklahoma State, to the come from behind wins against Ohio State in 2011, and the trio of Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan State last season.
However, for all the good that has come, the Senior starter of 39 of the last 40 games has had his share of failures.
His freshman year brought the benching against Texas at home, and the debacle against Texas A&M, where the famed Bo berating was caught on the sideline. There was the meltdown on offense versus Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, and then the consequent train wreck at the Holiday Bowl to finish the year.
There are a lot of things Taylor has been able to control through his time in Lincoln. He is already the Nebraska career leader in total offense, passing yards, completions, touchdown passes, and starts. He will not only pile on those numbers, but make it to where the man who breaks that record is going to have to be way better than him for just as long.
Yet, for all those numbers Martinez has eclipsed, the number that has challenged him is 5. In 5 conference title and bowl games combined, Taylor has yet to lead his team to a victory.
While the number falls on Taylor, the failure hasn't always fallen on Taylor. The offense wasn't the reason for the meltdown versus South Carolina on New Years 2012, and Taylor couldn't stop a jet sweep against Wisconsin, nor shut down Aaron Murray in the 4th quarter last winter.
As the starting quarterback for Nebraska, you're eventually measured on conference titles and bowl game wins. While it's not fair to say that Taylor hasn't been a successful leader, the resume has one glaring hole.
A conference title, or at the very least a bowl victory to finish the 2013 season, would be the perfect way to send off the kid who has spent his last 4 plus seasons in Lincoln, taking all the bullets that anyone (myself included) have fired off.
However, if this season, like the three others, does go by without any postseason celebration, it does beg to ask how Taylor will be remembered by the masses. Would you consider him one of the greatest of Nebraska's century plus football program? I personally think you could, but you'd have to put an asterisk next to his name, making you wonder what if about a lot of things.
Is he as good as the Tommie Frazier's, the Eric Crouch's and even the Scott Frost's of the program's history? Or does he lead the area of the very good, yet couldn't get over the hump like Steve Taylor, Keithen McCant, and Zac Taylor?
Personally, I want him to finally win something, to at least stop the wondering about whether he's worth the discussion. The numbers alone justify it, but there has to be that whole "signature win" thing, in a bowl game or a conference title game, to really shut everyone up. To justify the Steve Calhoun lessons, the Uncle Rico references, to just Win The Damn Game and silence the haters.
This season will be interesting for many reasons, one being that Taylor deserves to finish on top somehow. Time to find out if that happens.