Curtis Martin is probably the last person who thought he would ever make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact he was probably the last one to ever think he would play football at all.
The former New York Jets running back repeated what his childhood friends have been reminding him since being elected to the Hall of Fame months ago: 'Who would have dreamed this would ever happen?'
Not me, a humbled Martin said in a New York restaurant yesterday.
"Most of the people are surprised simply because I was the last person they thought would play football," Martin told a gathering of reporters inside the Manhattan eatery. "Football was like a headache to me. It was something I felt like I didn't have the time to do. To me, it just wasn't fun."
Martin— who played only one year of high school football in a tough neighborhood of Pittsburgh at the urging of his mother— was asked when it changed for the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history.
"I don't think it ever changed," he said. "I think I matured and I recognized the opportunity. I've spoken previously about how I grew up and where I grew up at. Football saved my life. I don't know where I would be. I don't know if I'd be alive if I hadn't played football."
Injuries hampered Martin's career at Pittsburgh but he busted out after getting drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 1995 NFL draft.
The Jets' greatest running back went to New York with Bill Parcells in 1998 but it wasn't an easy move.
"I didn't like New York at all," said Martin. "Beyond not liking New York, I didn't like the Jets. . . I didn't want to play for, what was in my mind, the worst team ever. I looked at the Jets as the bottom of the barrel.
"If Bill Parcells hadn't been in New York, I wouldn't have left the New England Patriots probably under any other circumstances. I was willing to play for less to stay with the New England Patriots."
Martin ran for 14,101 career yards and will be inducted in Canton on Aug. 4— the culmination of an unlikely career. Martin has come full circle and now believes it was meant to be.
"I may not have wanted to play, but I believe you have to do things," Martin said. "You know the saying, 'You have to do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.' I didn't know how to do until I had football in my life."