Posted: Monday June 13, 2011 2:48AM ; Updated: Monday June 13, 2011 3:10AM
Peter King

Grim news about his quarterback mentor hits Patriots' Brady hard

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has learned the finer points of passing from mentor Tom Martinez over the past two decades.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has learned the finer points of passing from mentor Tom Martinez over the past two decades.
Damian Strohmeyer/SI (Inset:

I'm taking my talents to ... no. Too easy this morning. Congrats to the Mavs and the great Nowitzki. But that's a story for my buddy Ian Thomsen to dissect. Let's get on to the important stuff.

End-Of-Lockout Fever! Catch it!

Well, sort of. There's some real optimism that there will be a labor deal within a month. Two weeks? Too soon is my guess, and it's no lock the two sides will reach a deal at all, but I'm hearing too many formerly negative people infer too many positive things. More about that in a few paragraphs.

But first one of the sad stories of the weekend. Tom Martinez, the coach and mentor for hundreds of young athletes near San Jose, Calif., and the mechanical muse to three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, is in grave condition after battling a kidney condition for years. His daughter, Linda Martinez Haley, quoted her father Sunday in a Facebook posting that said he had "a week to a month to live,'' and wished those he has coached and taught "a very successful and fulfilled life.'' It was a chilling nine-sentence good-bye note to everyone Martinez knows.

Martinez has coached football, basketball and softball, and he first got close to the Brady family by teaching Tom's sisters softball pitching. He has been Brady's most trusted passing mechanic -- so much so, and with such positive effects, that other quarterbacks have flocked to him for help.

Last winter, before the draft, Iowa prospect Ricky Stanzi spent two long weekends at the Martinez house in San Jose. "The first night I flew out, I got to their home late, but Tom started showing me DVDs right away, showing me the proper mechanics and telling me what we were going to do,'' Stanzi told me Sunday night. "It was amazing. We stayed up 'til 3 in the morning. What passion he has.''

That's what Brady's been seeing for two decades. And as he spoke over the phone Sunday, there was melancholy in his voice that never changed in 15 minutes, even when he said: "There is no one who knows more about throwing the football than Tom. And no one has meant more to me when it comes to throwing the football than Tom.

"We've been trying to get together this offseason for a session, and finally we met last Sunday at an indoor facility in San Carlos. We spent two hours there. He analyzed what I was doing, just like always. And when I got in the car with my dad afterward, I said to him, 'It's unbelievable how much he knows -- how much he helps me.' ''

That help will go on forever, from the sound of it. Brady told me in his Blackberry he has a folder with a list of football mechanics fine points from Martinez. And those won't go away. (Brady, by the way, still holds out hope of a miracle, and said he was hoping for a transplant candidate to surface in the next few days. But it sounds like Martinez is resigned to his fate, from his daughter's Facebook post.)

"That,'' Brady said of his Blackberry tool, "is a collection of 16 years of what I've learned from Tom. It's my guide to stay right with my mechanics.''

Said Brady: "Every time you step on the field, whether there's weather, whether you're on the road, where you've got a big pass-rush coming, it always comes down to mechanics. He instilled in me the importance of doing things the right way, every time.''

For instance, Martinez wanted Brady's stride with his left foot to never exceed six inches. The longer you stride, Martinez believed, the more time it took, and the more mistakes you could make; you didn't need to take a long stride to throw a deep ball. Being compact led to being efficient, and led to accuracy.

I asked Brady how important a factor Martinez had been in his career. "There's so many people I owe so much to -- high school, college and the NFL,'' he said. "But he is right at the top of the list. Second to none. He never held back with me. Even when I was going good, he'd watch me and call me and say something like, 'Your feet are way too slow in the shotgun. Speed it up!' or 'When you throw to your right, close your right shoulder.'

"I just can't say enough about him, and what he's meant to me. When I heard how serious it was the other night, I was there in bed with my wife, and it was just a sad moment. Very tough on his family, and on ours.''

Stanzi's agent, Jack Bechta, connected him with Martinez because of how highly Brady had spoken of the coach. For two weekends after the college season, Stanzi lived with Tom Martinez and his wife, ate meals in their home, and studied DVDs of Brady's mechanical drills. He heard all his strident sayings about the position. "The longer the stride, the more time you waste,'' Martinez said.

At one point, Martinez told Stanzi: "I'm not always going to be with you. You've got to remember this so you can correct yourself when things go wrong. You've got to be able to coach yourself.''

Part of Martinez's message, relayed through his daughter Sunday, was this: "I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to teach and coach you all and I ask that you take one or two of my life lessons and pass them on to your family and friends and that will keep me alive forever.'' I said to Stanzi it's almost like Martinez was telling him what he'd have to do when he wouldn't be able to pick up the phone and talk to him anymore.

"It's sad,'' Stanzi said, "but what he would want is for me to not only learn from him myself but pass it on to others. I will. This is a man who didn't even know me, and he took me in like a son and taught me everything he knew for a short time -- and had a big impact on me. I am so grateful just to have had the chance to be with him. I won't forget it.''

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