Curtis Martin’s journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has very much been a theme for newyorkjets.com and for many other media and fan outlets since his quest began in early 2011 and came to fruition with his choice by the selection committee this past February. And it will continue to be something we’ll be involved in up to and through his enshrinement in Canton on Saturday, Aug. 4.
This afternoon, as the big day looms less than two weeks from now, Curtis made a stop for an international conference call with writers who wanted to chat with him for stories this week and next. He said even though the big day is drawing ever closer, he’s still kind of getting his grips on the event.
“I’m still having a problem really understanding that something that was so far outside of my dreams or my aspirations is actually happening right now,” he said. “I don’t think it hit me yet, and it may not hit me till I get to canton. But I’m definitely proud and appreciative of the moment.”
Something that always struck me about Martin was that even though he said he never aspired to this level, he was nevertheless always the consummate Hall of Fame-quality player throughout his career. And that includes not only fulfilling all his duties as a running back and team leader on the field, but off it as well.
Specifically, when he was in the locker room and talking with reporters before or after a game, he always knew exactly what to say and how to say it. That trait continued to come to the front during this conference call when, confronted with questions he’s answered any number of times, he still came up answers, in his inimitable football eloquence, that shed light onto his tremendous mindset as he went about fashioning his career as one of the great backs ever to play the game.
Here are a few highlights from the call that I gleaned for all the No. 28 fans out there:
Surely you must have dreamed about entering the Hall of Fame at some time during your career.
“That was never a dream. Football was never a dream for me,” he said. “I ended up playing football just to stay out of trouble and stay alive. Football was something my mother forced me to do just so I could grow up in the neighborhood I grew up in. The Hall of Fame wasn’t something I would even dream about dreaming about.”
Is there any player you looked up to and shaped your career after?
“I was never a football fan. I was never really a fan of the game. But when I played Pop Warner football, I wore a neck brace and goggles like Eric Dickerson. He might have been the closest player for me that I emulated when I played the game.”
Is there anyone you felt was your greatest opponent?
“For me there was a player like that on every team. I would always pick someone out. One of my favorite players to pick out was Ray Lewis. I always wanted to challenge him to see if I could win the game between us whenever we played Baltimore. But my biggest challenge was outdoing myself. Anytime I stepped on the field, I tried to out-compete myself. I don’t think anybody could compete with me as hard as I competed with myself.”
How about your legendary low fumble rate?
“I just took pride in it. I remember being a rookie, we were in [New England’s] training camp and I fumbled the ball a couple of times. Bill Parcells made me carry the ball maybe for a week straight. I wasn’t allowed to be caught without the football. When I was eating lunch or eating dinner, I had the ball in one hand. When I was in meetings, I had the ball in one hand. He told the entire team to knock it out of my hands whenever they saw me and I was penalized if they were able to knock it out of my hands, even if we were in a meeting room. That kind of attention made me focus on the ball and that was a huge part of my game. I always felt that giving the ball up was letting my team down.”
What about your perhaps underrated skills as a receiver?
“I prided myself in being the best at whatever I needed to do. I’m very competitive. Even if I don’t like to do something, I’m determined to be the best at it. I don’t like second place, I don’t like playing second string. That’s just the way I’m wired. To me it wasn’t necessarily about being a good receiver out of the backfield. To me it was all encompassed in being a good running back. I wanted to be the best at everything I did.”
I never get tired of hearing Curtis Martin talk about football and I hope you don’t, either. We’ll have a few more stories about him as Canton looms before us. I’ll be making the trip to the Hall town to be at the big commemorative dinner on Friday, Aug. 3, and Eric Allen and our multimedia department will cover Curtis’ big day when he is officially enshrined at Fawcett Stadium, along with his 2012 classmates, Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Coleman, Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf, on Saturday night, Aug. 4.
Tags: Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, Hall of Fame
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