RJ Martinez enters the transfer portal

Sophomore quarterback RJ Martinez does drills during Saturday's homecoming game, Nov. 5.

NAU football’s starting quarterback RJ Martinez announced that he is departing the program and entering the transfer portal. Martinez announced his decision via Twitter 10 days after the team’s final game of the year, the end of his sophomore season. Martinez was the Big Sky Freshman of the Year in 2021.

“I’m thankful for the relationships that I have built with my teammates throughout the past couple of years at NAU,” Martinez posted from his notes section. “With that being said I am entering the transfer portal with two years of eligibility left as well as a redshirt year.”

NAU finished its season a disappointing 3-8 with a 2-6 conference record, ninth in the Big Sky. NAU showed promise early in the year, beating FCS-departing Sam Houston State, but was inconsistent throughout the season.

Martinez finished his sophomore campaign second in the Big Sky in passing yards with 2,877 in 11 games. However, Martinez had just 16 touchdowns and threw eight interceptions. In eight games during his freshman season, Martinez threw 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also had 1,713 yards in his first year with the Lumberjacks and completed over 60% of his passes in each season. His 30 career touchdown passes leave him with the 10th most in school history.

Martinez made his debut against the University of Arizona in NAU’s third game of the 2021 season. He did not start but led NAU through the second half to a 21-19 win over the PAC-12 opponent. It was NAU’s first win over Arizona since 1932.

Martinez received his first start against Northern Colorado the following week and held the position for the remainder of the season, only missing a single game due to injury. He threw for more than 200 yards four times, including a 417-yard performance against Grand Canyon rival Southern Utah. He threw for five touchdowns in the game and ran for another two touchdowns with 65 rushing yards. Southern Utah departed the conference at the end of last season and without another matchup for six seasons, NAU kept the Grand Canyon Trophy long-term.

Martinez ran for 255 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two collegiate seasons, showing dual-threat ability.

Late in his sophomore season, against Montana State, he put the Lumberjacks in a position to upset a top-three team in the country, posting a career day. Martinez completed 73.9% of his passes and had 452 yards with three touchdowns. It was one of six games he had his sophomore season in which he threw for more than 250 yards.

Martinez is from Austin, Texas and attended Westwood High School. As a three-year starter, he threw for 7,608 yards and 67 touchdowns. He also ran for 28 touchdowns 1,612. Along with NAU, he held offers from Sam Houston State, Abilene Christian and Houston Christian. He held a two-star rating coming out of high school according to 247SPORTS.

NAU is left with a quarterback room consisting of redshirt freshman Angel Flores, redshirt sophomores Niko Haen and PJ London, redshirt junior Jeff Widener and redshirt freshman Ryan Fontaine.

Widener has the most playing time of the group, appearing in 15 games since 2019. He has 732 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. He has two rushing touchdowns with 223 rushing yards.

Flores was a three-star recruit out of Casa Grande High School. He had 7,957 career passing yards and 3,583 rushing yards. He led the Spartans to the 4A State Championship his senior season and was named 4A Kino Region Player of the Year in his junior and senior seasons. Flores appeared scarcely during his freshman year and had 14 rush yards on three carries.

Haen saw playtime in replacement of Martinez and Widener as they both missed some time with injuries late in the 2021 season. He has 159 passing yards and 21 rushing yards across three appearances.

London and Fontaine have yet to make their Lumberjack debuts. London is a Blue Ridge High School graduate. Fontaine attended Pusch Ridge High School in Tucson.

The loss of Martinez for NAU will lead to big changes within the program as it will have a new man at the helm of the offense in 2023.

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