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Tom Brady could always count on Tom Martinez

02.22.12 at 12:35 am ET
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Simply put, you cannot tell the story of Tom Brady without Tom Martinez.

The quarterback first came across Martinez when he was a teenager in the Bay Area, struggling to learn the game. The coach, who would come to be known as an invaluable mentor to generations of young athletes in Northern California, watched Brady for a couple of minutes before effortlessly breaking down his mechanics.

It was the start of a relationship that would last more than 20 years. While Martinez continued to serve as a youth coach in several sports in his community and quarterbacking guru to several young signal callers, he remained close with Brady, forging a deep friendship, one that continued through Brady’s years at Michigan and into his career with the Patriots. When Brady won his first start as a pro in New England in 2001, he gave Martinez the game ball with the inscription: “Coach Martinez — Thanks — The first of many — 9/30/01 — Patriots 44, Colts 13 — Tom Brady #12.”

And even after three Super Bowl titles and two MVPs, whenever Brady’s game needed fixing, Martinez was there, whether it was through e-mail, text or over the phone. Brady always kept a list of reminders from Martinez in his wallet, one that he often looked at before games, a list that included mantras like “Keep your elbow high,” “Throw it down the hall,” “Keep your hips closed.” (The quarterback would later switch the list to his Blackberry.)

The quarterback trusted Martinez for several reasons, not the least of which was that he remained consistent in his coaching methods: It didn’t matter if Brady was the starter on the Serra High JV team or the leader of a Super Bowl champion — with him, it was always the same. They continued to connect on a regular basis, whether it was back in California during the offseason or an occasional surreptitious trip by Martinez to Foxboro. The two were constantly seeking what Martinez would later call “that perfection,” always looking to improve on an already unimpeachable game.

In recent years, Martinez struggled with complications brought about by diabetes, and was awaiting a possible kidney donation. In the days before Super Bowl XLVI, Brady talked about the impact that Martinez had on his life.

“We’ve worked together for over 20 years trying to work on my mechanics and nail those down. He’s had a great commitment to me,” Brady said. “He’s always calling and texting and saying, ‘Get your shoulder down and get your arm up and close your left side and take a shorter stride.’ Talk about a perfectionist — he’s a perfectionist and he doesn’t let anything slide with me.”

“That’s amazing,” Martinez said quietly after hearing Brady’s words. “We have a very special relationship, but it’s always nice to hear his point of view on something like that. I can only give my point of view, and you’re never sure what the other person thinks. That’s very nice of him, and extremely gracious. We’ve been working together for a long time, and we’re still working on that perfection.”

On Tuesday, Martinez passed away on his 66th birthday. While coaches, coordinators and teammates will continue to pass through Brady’s football life, none will have the sort of impact on his development that Martinez did.

“He’s obviously a great friend of mine and a great friend of my family’s, and has been for a long time,” Brady said. “He taught me how to throw the football at a young age. I’m forever indebted to him. I owe so much to him. I love him.”

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