Journey to the Blue: One Family's Story

Many times an article will be featured on the front page that talks about statistics, talent, performance, etc. This one reveals the personal aspect of college football that we often forget. It's the story of Bronco star safety Marty Tadman, as told by his mother and father.

[Of necessity this is one family's abbreviated story, but hopefully it will serve to help us all understand some of the issues of family pride, dreams, decision making, understanding, togetherness and independence, as well as perseverance and good fortune that go into having a young man playing as a Bronco.]

The Southern California sun smiled. A four-year-old, a new baseball glove, a ball…and most important, Dad with whom to play catch….All of the necessary elements to set the stage.

Mark Tadman still vividly remembers the day, primarily because of the unsolicited, and in retrospect prophetic, comment made by a fellow father present, "Wow! You have quite the future athlete there!" It was then that the thought dawned that besides just the happy, intellectually bright second son they knew him to be, Marty had God given physical abilities that would quite possibly set him aside as gifted.

Both Mom and Dad guided, and yes maybe sometimes even pushed, their young charge into organized sports beginning with karate and T-ball to soccer at seven-years-old and then basketball and football at eight. Even at this early juncture, the Tadmans realized that their son had an uncanny ability to focus on his chosen sport of the moment, completely shutting out the rest of the world. If anyone, including coach, mother, father, or brother wanted to know just exactly what was going on in a game or what really happened after it was all over, all that was necessary was to just ask Marty. He knew…Nothing escaped his attention.

Starting at eight, organized sports were a continuing, and always welcome, family activity….Mom and Dad watching, encouraging, even now sometimes pushing and the Tadman boys playing. On one memorable day when Marty was about eleven years-old and brother Matt was going on 16, there were no less than five sporting events for the proud parents to attend between the brothers. And attend them all they did, the private cheering section for Marty and Matt that the boys knew would be there no matter the circumstances and scheduling difficulties that had to be overcome.

Marty's giftedness continued to spread like a comfortable blanket over his family's life. Academic achievement, gymnastics, even singing and acting were all interests at one time and another. But it was baseball that captured Dad's imagination and energies of encouragement, prodding, and "selected suggestion." In his mind, this is where his young athlete would leave his mark…as a shortstop and/or pitcher. After all, he was part of a successful Little League team whose head coach had taken another team all the way to the Little League World Series final, eventually losing to a team from Mexico.

But young Marty didn't like being pushed. Throughout it all he was definitely "his own man.," attached yet also independent, loving and kind while also focused and headstrong. There were the private basketball lessons with a trainer, and by 13 years-old, structured one-on-one football guidance for the now budding quarterback for him to both take advantage of and sort through.

The natural assumption would be that all this family attention brought about a relational closeness that would be the envy of any other family, right? The answer, not surprisingly, is more complex than a simple "Yes," or "No." True, from the time that Marty was eight Dad has only missed two games (and that includes all home and away Bronco games, only excluding those games in '04 before he burned his redshirt)…and even those two consecutive game absences were in Marty's junior year in high school when there was a death in the family. And also true was the fact of a growing shared pride of accomplishment by player and family.

But then there were also what at the time seemed like major crisis points. For instance, when Marty was 12 years-old and had just finished a dream Little League season, he unceremoniously announced that he would not ever again play organized football, leaving his family, and especially his older brother to whom he was very close, both shattered and bewildered. And then there was his freshman year in high school. He was the captain of the freshman team, their quarterback and MVP and on track to be a varsity star. Again, without warning and to the consternation of family and all who knew him, Marty announced that he would not be playing any more high school football. He was finished.

Thankfully throughout, Mom and Dad Tadman had the wisdom to realize that their son had to figure out his own priorities and continued to comfort themselves with the realization that they had taught him well and that it "is his life and we're not going to force him." Fortunately for all, Marty reconsidered and went back to what was quickly becoming his major sport.

While at Mission Viejo High School he was a two-way starter while also maintaining Honor Roll student status. As a junior and senior he helped his team to the CIF Division II Championship Game, finishing with 42 catches for 921 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. He also returned four kicks for touchdowns (no wonder the Bronco coaches have had him practice and step in as an occasional kick/punt returner).

And the honors kept on coming. He was named an All-American Selection (one of the top 300 players in the country) by Prep Star Magazine, while also earning offensive MVP honors in the annual Cali-Florida All-Star Game. As a senior he was named first-team All-CIF All Divisions and first-team All-CIF Division II while also being named South Coast Offensive Player of the Year, Orange County Player of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Player of the Year by the Orange County Register, and first-team All-South Coast. He was the team MVP at Mission Viejo, as well as special teams player of the year and team captain. And as Dad's clippings testify, the list goes on…all while also lettering in tennis and basketball.

By the beginning of his senior year it was obvious to everyone, including Marty, that the expected courtship and offers from colleges would begin to come in soon. By now his parent's influence had diminished to somewhere between little and none. Marty had his own set of requirements of what he was looking for in a school and its football program.

His first official scholarship offer came from Arizona. His high school coach, Bob Johnson, felt this was just the beginning of offers from most, if all, the PAC-10 schools. Arizona was quickly followed by Oregon State University and then Washington State University. Word was that he was also a hot prospect on the USC radar and Dad tried to use whatever influence he might have left to steer him that direction. How could he lose if he went to USC? And perhaps more selfishly, the school was close to the Tadman home in southern Orange County.

Marty did attend the USC Junior Day. His reaction upon getting back home and seeing his parents? "I would never go to school there. I hate the campus." And that was the end of the USC speculation. He obviously wanted something from college that seemed to no longer match his father's ambitions for him.

Important to note is that during all this time BSU, to the puzzlement of some, was in the "top five" for Marty. Why? Even though he hadn't ever seen the town or the campus, he liked what he had seen of the Broncos' style of play.

Then events began to take place that cleared the picture considerably for both parents and player. First, Arizona fired its coach and the "connection" to Tucson was no longer viable. Second, Boise State Running Backs and Special Teams Coach Kent Riddle visited and won the respect of the Tadman family…and brought along a scholarship offer from Boise State. Third, a first visit to Boise was set from which Marty returned home with nothing but positives for the team and coaches, the campus and the city. Although there was still his promised visit to Oregon State, OSU just couldn't match Boise. Place, personnel, and atmosphere didn't equal what the Broncos offered. Finally, before even getting back home to Southern California, Marty called during his ride to the airport and said, "I'm not going to WSU for a visit…I'm committing to Boise State."

According to both parents a deciding piece in the picture for them personally was the visit from Head Coach Dan Hawkins. "We were taken up with his persona" and had to agree that Boise State University was the best place for their football player/Communication Major son. Marty and family were again on the same page, moving together in the same direction.

This story would not be complete without mentioning what to Marty and family became the defining point in his still young life. Late at night on a Southern California beach, while in the midst of depression and knowing he had been living a "secret life" that would most possibly break his parent's hearts; he had a life defining encounter with God. Coming from a good Jewish family, becoming an active Christian was not the easiest thing to communicate to those he loved. But even if there had never been a revealing of the events of that fateful night, the sometimes "shocking but positive changes in Marty's life," as put by Mr. Tadman, were soon quite obvious to all. Often considered a "gifted but also difficult child to manage" by Mom and Dad, this new Marty had their full support and continued love. Sports, particularly football, were now at least second to a new spiritual adventure.

With many past accomplishments and many more potential future football honors on the horizon for their son, how do Mr. and Mrs. Tadman now see #20 Free Safety Marty Tadman? Who is he? What has he become on this Road to the Blue?

To Mom he is still that very special and gifted person, much more than just a player on the blue turf, albeit an outstanding one. He is the son whose accomplishments as a human being bring a lump to her throat and a glow to her heart.

To Dad he is a son gifted and called by God and fully dedicated to Him…a youth minister who by God's grace turned his own life around and is committed to bringing the same possibility of new life to others.

And not least there is another special "family member" in Marty Tadman's life. This past May he was married to his high school sweetheart Nicky, who fully shares his excitement for life and an abiding care for others.

And oh yes, least we forget, #20 also happens to be a very good…no, an outstanding…Boise State University Bronco football player.

[Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Mark Tadman for their insight, generous time…and for sharing with all Bronco fans the amazing son who is the object of this article.]


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