Curtis charting a course past a Panther in '05
Curtis Martin was always so eloquently positive and positively eloquent in his locker room comments. Perhaps that's why the postgame quote I remember most from him was the time when he was brutally blunt.
The when was Dec. 15, 2002, the where was the less-than-professional-grade visitors' locker room at the Bears' home away from at the University of Illinois in Champaign. And the why was the Jets' flat 20-13 upset loss to the Bears that appeared to extinguish their flickering playoff hopes.
"I just feel we can't do things that are going to take us backwards, and today it seemed like we did a lot of that," Martin said, quietly but steadily, sitting in front of his locker. "I think the coaches did everything they were supposed to do. I think our preparation was as good as it can be.
"But we choked."
Maybe the shock of that assessment was one reason the Jets rebounded in the following three weeks for their 30-17 upset win at New England, the 42-17 pummeling of the Packers and the 41-0 blanking of the Colts in the AFC Wild Card Game. Such was and is the strength of Curtis' words.
Martin had many more great quotes in his nine seasons as a Jet. I've probably forgotten some of the best ones, but here's a sampling of the best I haven't forgotten:
On his running style, during 1998 training camp:
"Getting the extra yard is a talent, a confidence I've been blessed with. There's something in me that just gravitates to the hole, to get every inch."
On a (two-)grand goal of his, during 1999 camp:
"For me, I feel 2,000 yards would represent a lot for our team. If I can rush for 2,000 yards, I believe that would put us in the best possible place to be able to do what we want to do. It's not a me-me-me thing. This is a goal I set with the team as the focus and not myself."
On finding out he was elected the Jets' MVP, Dec. 30, 1999:
"Bill [Parcells] called me into his office, and I was thinking I was about to go hear something crazy. I knew I hadn't done anything and I wondered what he was going to say. I voted for Keyshawn [Johnson] myself last week, and I wasn't even thinking about the MVP award."
On developing his personal philosophy, Sept. 30, 2000:
"I believe patience is the key on the field, off the field, in life, in relationships, everything. The majority of my life, I had been so impatient. It was my way or my way. I was going to will it, I was going to do it. Even if it didn't fit, I was going to make it fit. But I've learned that when I do that, it's not going my way. I try not to use force so much as I'm learning to use wisdom."
On why he was so underrated nationally, Nov. 3, 2001:
"I don't mind being underrated. Now something that would get under my skin, that I would hate, would be to be overrated. I don't care about accolades. What I care about is coming in here and doing my job.''
On the contract extension he signed, Aug. 29, 2002:
"Wow. When I got the call that it was done, I went up in my shower and came to tears. I was so humbled that the Jets think so much of me."
On another goal that he expressed in June 2004:
"I'm expecting to have a minimum of 1,500 yards, and I don't even mind saying it this year. I'm a big believer in you get out what you put in. This is my first healthy off-season in a while. I've put in as much work as any year. I feel like I'm moving as well as I ever have. I'm really going to be ready.''
On one of his most famous traits, Oct. 2, 2004
"My focus isn't to be as famous as I could possibly be. My focus isn't to do as many commercials as I could do — I pass up those opportunities all the time. It's because I don't want to mess with my focus."
After the 20-17 overtime playoff loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field, Jan. 20, 2005:
``I had different plans. I canceled everything, all my business affairs through the Pro Bowl. I thought we were going all the way. There's blood out there on that field that's ours.''
More on Martin the man, 2005 training camp:
"I'm a methodical person when it comes to my job. I plan things. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. But I'm comfortable knowing I put my best foot forward and that I had a goal with a purpose and I went after it.''
On his approach to adversity, Nov. 10, 2005
"One of my principles in life is that when things are at their worst, you have to be at your best. It's hard to keep the right attitude and work harder when things are down, like the situation we're in. I believe if you want something you don't have, you have to do something you're not. That's what I see a lot of our people doing.''
On his unimproving right knee, Aug. 30, 2006:
"You come to grips with what the truth is. If winter is coming up and I don't want it to snow, it's still going to snow. There's nothing I can do about that."
Finally, here are two telling quotes from Martin's Nov. 2, 2006, news conference, when he declared himself out for the season all but said he knew his playing days were over.
On whether he might play again:
"Do I think I can tolerate the pain, go out and score a touchdown? Probably. That's just what I believe. But do I think that will possibly hinder me from scoring a touchdown with my kids or running down the field with my kids? Yes."
"There's one Bible verse that says, 'A good name is better than riches and gold.' I came into this league saying if I can retire or stop playing knowing I've accomplished that goal, everything else will take care of itself, and that's where I feel I'm at."