NFL football enthusiasts around the globe pride themselves in their team affinity, player statistics and championship aptitude each year. Most begin by proclaiming to their friends and family that their team is certain to make it to the post-season in brash fashion at the start of every season. It is something that most football fans have in common, even if the Super Bowl isn’t their goal, but being a.500 team is. Football fans love to discuss their teams and the players that march onto the field each week on their behalf. When player comparisons start flurrying amongst a crowd, especially where running backs are concerned, no smack talking session would be complete without mentioning the football legend that is Curtis Martin.
Curtis James Martin, Jr. was born and raised on the rough and tumble lower income streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was raised predominantly by a single mother who suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of his father before he abandoned them both around the time Curtis reached an age of double digits. Despite the odds that faced her family, his hard-working mother saw to it that her son’s infectious smile, and friendly unassuming personality was not wasted on the streets. She transferred him to a high school where education was not only a priority, but an exact focus. Curtis Martin never touched a football, at least not in the form of organized play, until he was a senior in high school, which makes his story all that more remarkable to NFL football fans across the nation.
Football was a mere extra-curricular outlet for Curtis, at the urging of his mother. She knew that the less time he had to spend immersed in the horrific violence that befell him, the better off he would be. Football became that outlet, thanks to his tremendous natural abilities and talent that were not overlooked by his high school coach. After a single year playing practically every position on the squad, including quarterback, colleges were regaling him with offers from across the country.
In an effort to stay close to home, Curtis chose the University of Pittsburgh. With a lackluster college career plagued by various injuries, Curtis opted out of his red shirt availability and forewent what could have been a final year to entertain the NFL football scouts as an amateur. He declared his eligibility for the NFL draft in 1995 and slid into the very late third round before being chosen by New England. The Patriots would be the first to use Curtis’s speed, style and stamina to impress the NFL football world at large, and because of his success, Curtis would finally be able to get his mother into a comfortable living position going forward. The latter, he always explained, was his only determined success, which made him immediately likable to anyone who met him.
Curtis was a workhorse, winning his first rushing title in 1995, the same year he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. One year later he joined his Patriot teammates in Super Bowl XXXI, losing to the Green Bay Packers by two touchdowns. In 1997 he became a free agent, and was traded to the New York Jets where he spent the balance of his career. His hard-working demeanor and exceptional aptitude for the game allowed him to play seven complete seasons for the Jets while only missing one game.
Curtis cemented his toughness into the history books after adding another rushing title to his dossier, complementing the five Pro Bowl selections, and All Pro assignments to match. Loved by many, and respected by all, Curtis never wavered in his smash mouth football skills, even late in his career. Nearly ten years after the start of what would become any illustrious existence in an NFL uniform, Curtis became the oldest player to win a rushing title at the age of 31. His reputation for excelling in a sport he never cared about as a kid landed him at fourth all-time in rushing yards in the NFL history books. It is certainly argued by many that if his knees were not chronically injured, he could have jumped to first on that esteemed list.
He is forever enshrined as a New York Jet, having his #28 jersey retired by the team in 2012, and enshrined to the rest of the leagues and its fans that same year when he was admitted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His induction speech served as a vivid reminder to everyone who loves football, and the man who ran the ball with such precision and expertise for all those years, that life, love and family are more important than anything else.
In pure Curtis Martin fashion, after describing his life in horrific detail, thanked the sport of football for making him the person he is today. Who he is today serves as a beacon of hope for youngsters around the country, thanks to the Curtis Martin Job Foundation that provides support and financial aid to single mothers, and a bevy of under-privileged individuals through numerous charities. Where there is heart, there is soul, and Curtis Martin developed both in extraordinary fashion.