Tamaurice Nigel "Tee" Martin passed on coming home.
The 34-year-old Martin, one of the central figures in Tennessee's drive to the 1998 national championship, is returning to Los Angeles as a member of former Vol head coach Lane Kiffin's staff at USC.
Martin, who coached wide receivers at Kentucky and Southern Cal the past three seasons, is expected to again fill the same role for the Trojans next year. He is known as a hard-working position coach and an excellent recruiter as USC's lead recruiter for four-star commitments Jason Hatcher and Jalen Ramsey.
He flew into Knoxville to see what Tennessee has to offer the up-and-comer. Purportedly, the former NFL QB is heading home with a six-figure raise from USC.
Tennessee is left with one vacant spot on Butch Jones' first staff on The Hill.
Martin's exceptional character was displayed throughout his tenure as a Tennessee player. Following an outstanding high school career in Mobile, Ala., he signed with the Vols in 1996, knowing he would be relegated to a backup role behind superstar Peyton Manning (then a rising junior) for one season and possibly two.
Despite completing just 2 of 4 passes for 24 yards as a Vol freshman in 1996, Martin projected to be the starting quarterback in '97. Manning shocked the world by returning for his senior year, however, forcing Martin to spend another season squirming on the bench. Content to continue waiting his turn, he completed 6 of 12 passes for 87 yards as a sophomore.
When Martin assumed the first-team QB job at the start of his junior year he had a decidedly unimpressive resume. He had completed just 8 of 16 passes for 111 yards and had rushed 20 times for 10 net yards. Moreover, he had played in just 10 of 25 games, all at mop-up time.
Given Martin's lack of collegiate experience, Vol coaches brought him along slowly in '98. Rarely called upon to throw the ball, he mostly handed off to standout running back Jamal Lewis in Games 1, 2, 3 and 4. Because Lewis tore an ACL in Game 4 at Auburn, however, Tennessee was forced to give Martin a bigger role in the offense going forward. He responded like a champion.
After completing just 5 of 14 passes in the Auburn game, Martin threw 26 times in Game 5 against Georgia, completing 16 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Having earned the confidence of his coaches, Martin posted one of the greatest passing performances ever in Game 7 at South Carolina. He completed his first 23 attempts that day, finishing 23 of 24 for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Counting his final pass of Game 6 against Alabama, Martin held NCAA records for most consecutive completions over a two-game span (24) and most consecutive completions in one game (23).
Martin and fiery linebacker Al Wilson were the heart and soul of the 1998 Vols, eventually guiding them to an 11-0 regular season and a 24-14 defeat of Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game. Then, showing he could perform on college football's biggest stage, Martin passed for 278 yards — hooking up with Peerless Price on bombs of 76 and 79 yards — as Tennessee beat Florida State 23-16 in the BCS National Championship Game at Tempe, Ariz.
Martin wasn't just a quality passer. He also was a quality runner. He ran for 30 or more yards six times that season and finished 1998 with 287 yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
Martin guided the Vols to a 9-3 season as a senior in 1999, finishing his college career with a 22-3 record as a starting quarterback. Interestingly enough, he was one of six quarterbacks selected ahead of future New England Patriots star Tom Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft, going to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 5.
After four years as an NFL backup and a year in NFL Europe, Martin turned his attention to coaching. He spent the 2009 season overseeing quarterbacks for New Mexico, then spent 2010 and 2011 fine-tuning wide receivers for Kentucky. Ironically, one of his wideouts, Matt Roark, was pressed into service at quarterback in the 2011 finale against Tennessee and led the Big Blue to a 10-7 victory, snapping a 26-game losing streak in the series. Martin's Kentucky stint also included a year coaching Randall Cobb, a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Martin joined the Southern Cal staff of former Vol head man Lane Kiffin last February, working with Trojan receivers during the 2012 season.
Married to the former Toya Rodriguez — a recording artist known simply by her first name — Martin and his wife have two sons, Kaden and Cannon.