Martinez, Long return for pro day

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Taylor Martinez has traveled this road before.

Many coaches and experts questioned his ability to fit as a quarterback in college out of Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School five years ago.

Martinez started 43 games at Nebraska from 2010 to 2013, setting school records for total offense, passing yards, touchdown passes and rushing yards by a QB.

After missing the majority of his senior season with a foot injury, he returned to perform a final time on the turf in Lincoln on Thursday, showing well before 28 NFL executives and scouts on the Huskers’ pro day.

Though open to playing receiver or safety at the next level, Martinez said he’d like to give it a go at quarterback.

“It’s the same, exact process -- a lot of people are doubting me,” he said in his first interview since October. “So we’ll see if I can prove the haters wrong again.”

More than a dozen former Huskers participated on Thursday at Nebraska’s indoor facility. Martinez drew the most attention, along with offensive guard Spencer Long and cornerback Stan Jean-Baptiste.

Jean-Baptiste and Long attended the NFL combine last month, though Long, a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior in 2012, attempted no physical drills as he continued to recover from a torn knee ligament suffered on Oct. 12.

Receiver Quincy Enunwa, who ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the combine, watched on Thursday while apparently still nursing a hamstring injury from Indianapolis. He declined an interview request.

Martinez hurt his foot in the season opener last September against Wyoming. He played in three more games but was limited by the injury. Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III combined to play the other nine games as the Huskers finished a 9-4 season with a Gator Bowl win over Georgia.

Since January, Martinez has rehabilitated the foot and trained at home in California with Steve Calhoun, his personal coach. Martinez said he began to run full speed about five weeks ago.

On Thursday, he said he registered a hand-timed 4.28 seconds in the 40, though the time is unofficial. If verified, it would rank faster than all but one prospect at the combine. Martinez said he also completed the shuttle run in 3.83 seconds, recorded a vertical leap of 39 inches and a 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump.

He lifted 17 bench-press reps of 225 pounds and appeared in excellent physical shape.

“I think I did a pretty good job of showing that I’m not hurt,” he said.

He said he did not prepare before Thursday to play any position other than quarterback. The scouts included him in a group of players who performed a series of receiver and defensive back drills.

“Whoever wants me, at whatever position, I’m ready to go,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter to me. I’m an athlete, so I can go out and play whatever position.”

The 6-foot-4 Long dropped four pounds to 316 on Thursday from his weight at the combine. He benched 28 reps, better than eight of the 12 guards who tested at the combine.

Long, after the knee injury caused him to miss the final eight games of his college career, endured an appendectomy in January that set him back again.

“I’ve had to go through some adversity,” Long said. “It’s kind of like, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But the point is, I still have an opportunity. I’m still thankful for that. I can keep working hard and eventually show these guys that I’m the player I was, even better.”

Long plans to hold an individual workout in Lincoln on April 17. The draft is May 8-10.

Nebraska averaged 42.4 points and 291.6 rushing yards in the five games before Long’s injury; after, it was 25.4 and 168.2.

Long said he thought he did well in interviews with NFL teams last month and again on Thursday. He’s not listening to speculation about where he’ll land in the draft.

“I’ve heard everything from upper rounds to not being drafted,” he said.

The past six months have provided Long with perspective, he said. Twice an academic All-Big Ten honoree, he graduated in December and was accepted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

But he's determined to make a career of football. He’ll be fully cleared to resume workouts next week.

“I just have to show them that I’m healthy,” Long said. “It’s a big concern for these teams: ‘Is he going to be healthy? Is he going to be ready to play some football?’

“Yes, I am.”