Tee Martin’s name is one that will never be forgotten by Vol fans. In 1998, he was the quarterback who helped lead Tennessee to an undefeated season and the school’s first national title since the 1950s, going 13-0 and defeating Florida State 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl to bring the first-ever BCS Championship to Knoxville.
Over two decades later, Vol fans still remember ’98 and long for UT’s football program to feel like those days once again. Now, Martin himself is back in Knoxville, only this time he’s on Tennessee’s coaching staff as a wide receivers coach. But this week, it’s a younger Martin who has taken the spotlight in Knoxville.
Kaden Martin, the son of Tee Martin, has grabbed attention as both a football and baseball prospect over the last couple years, and he already holds offers from a number of Power Five schools, including Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss, USC, and Duke. On Tuesday night of this week, Martin shared that Tennessee, his father’s alma mater, had extended an offer to him in football as well.
The 6-foot, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback just finished up his sophomore year of football and completed his first season at Knoxville Catholic after his family moved back to east Tennessee. Martin also plays baseball, and this spring will be his second season with the Irish’s baseball program. In his first year in 2019, Martin was named the 4-AAA Rookie of the Year and was named to the MaxPreps Freshman All-American Team for his debut campaign in high school. Martin is a two-way player, playing in the outfield and pitching both. He hit .252 and totaled three home runs, 12 doubles, 21 RBI, and 29 runs on offense as a freshman.
In football, Martin took over the reigns as Knoxville Catholic’s quarterback in just his sophomore season, and he helped guide the Irish to a 7-3 regular season record and an appearance in the playoffs. Martin threw for 1,226 yards and 11 touchdowns while also rushing for nine scores.
According to Martin, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt was the one who gave him the official scholarship offer in football.
“I called him, and we talked for a little bit, and then he offered me,” Martin told me in a recent interview. “They had watched me and said they wanted to offer me.”
The high school sophomore has already been to Tennessee’s campus a great deal in his one year in Knoxville, saying he goes there “all the time” to hang out with his dad.
“Just seeing my dad and stuff and being up there to work out with him,” Martin said. “I really like being up there with my dad and all that stuff, so I’m there all the time just hanging out.”
Unsurprisingly, Kaden has talked with his father a lot about Tee’s time as Tennessee’s quarterback in the late 1990s. The younger Martin has picked his dad’s brain about what it takes to play quarterback at a championship level.
“We talk about it all the time. I’ll ask him questions about leading the team and just being a great quarterback,” Martin explained. “I’ll talk to him about that run and going to the national championship. Just being a good quarterback in general on a great team.”
Over in California at Redondo, Kaden was about as far away from the influence of Knoxville as he could’ve been. He knew about the “glory days” of his father’s playing days, but being at USC is different than being at UT.
In Knoxville, Martin’s father has a street named after him.
That kind of notoriety with Tee pushes Kaden to try even harder to be a good quarterback, but he also wants it to be known that he’s not in his father’s shadow.
“It’s really nice seeing how my dad is kinda an idol to certain people. It really makes me want to strive to be the best player I can,” Martin said. “I really want to be a role model to people. But I’m also not going to put that pressure on myself. I’m not trying to live up to my dad’s goals and what he did. I have goals for myself, and I have to make a name for myself.”
Right now, Martin’s name is doing just fine on its own. He currently holds about a dozen scholarship offers in football, and Tennessee, Missouri, and USC have given him offers in baseball, too.
As a 2022 prospect, Martin still has plenty of time ahead of him before he has to make a decision about which college to attend, and he also has time before he decides which sport he wants to focus on. He says right now it’s “kinda 50/50” on which one he wants to pursue long term, and he’s just enjoying playing both. He wants to be a two-way player in baseball, but he also wants to be the best quarterback he can be in football.
Both of those decisions are still a ways off, but the “here and now” for Kaden involve getting better every day and honing his craft. Moving from California to Knoxville has been different, and he’s enjoyed those differences.
“It was a little different, bigger boys, a little better talent,” Martin said of playing football in Knoxville compared to Redondo. “It was cool to see the difference in the west coast and east coast players and the competition both.”
Knoxville Catholic begins their 2020 baseball season in a little over a week, and this summer will be important for Martin as well as he continues to work on improving his quarterbacking skills. Expect to continue to hear plenty about Martin on the recruiting trail over the next couple years.