Curtis Martin, the NFL's fourth all-time leading rusher and the Jets' "bellcow" running back from 1998-2005, was selected today to join the Hall of Fame's Class of 2012.
In fact, it could be said that Martin is the star of the class that includes five other members: center Dermontti Dawson, DE/LB Chris Doleman, DT Cortez Kennedy, tackle Willie Roaf and seniors-nominee CB Jack Butler. Martin was the first enshrinee interviewed by Fran Charles, the host of NFL Network's "Road to Canton" special that aired from 5:30-7 p.m. ET, and spoke at length of his thankfulness, his humbleness and his teammates that all helped him "join the club."
"It hasn't been exactly nervewracking," Martin told Charles about his second year as a Hall finalist in his second year of eligibility. "I've always been the type of guy who doesn't get excited for a game till I'm walking through the tunnel and stepping on the field. I will say this year it almost caught me off-guard. When the show first started, I tweeted, 'It's like I'm watching a scary movie.' I did get a little nervous. But it's one of the most humbling experiences I've had in my career."
The only bit of tarnish for No. 28 on this important day is that he didn't get to enter the Hall together with Bill Parcells, who was a third-time finalist for the Hall but again didn't have enough votes from the selection committee to get from the final 10, which he made, down to the final five of the modern-era candidates. Parcells drafted Martin with the Patriots, got to a Super Bowl with him, then brought him down I-95 to help turn around the Jets' fortunes in the late Nineties on into the new millennium.
"The Bittersweet Part" for Martin
Even though "Tuna" must wait another year, Martin told Charles, now-fellow Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Warren Moon, and the national cable audience that Parcells coming up short of enshrinement wouldn't prevent him from bringing his coach with him for the induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.
"The bittersweet part about it is Parcells has meant so much to me in my career," he said of choosing his presenter for the Aug. 4 ceremonies. "I think it's a simple decision. There's no one I'd rather have present me than Bill Parcells. He's meant everything to my career. I'm definitely not even close to being in this position — I don't think I'd have played more than four or five years — without Bill Parcells as my mentor."
Parcells had similar sentiments this week. "You know I'm prejudiced," he told the New York Post about his feelings for Martin. "He's consistent, he's productive, he's always out there."
Martin praised the efforts of Gary Myers, the New York Daily News football columnist who is in his third year as the Jets' representative on the 44-member selection committee, in helping to get him into the Hall. And Myers didn't hesitate to return the favor.
"I was very optimistic this year," Myers told newyorkjets.com. "It's hard to get two players from one position into the Hall in the same year, but last year I could have argued that Curtis deserved to go in ahead of Marshall Faulk [who was the only RB selected in the Class of '11]. I think he came really close last year and I didn't see anybody knocking him out of this group. He deserves it."
Woody, Mike T Offer Congratulations
Shortly after his selection was announced, Martin received well wishes from two men who benefitted much from watching Martin lead the Jets from the 1998 season into the new millennium.
"I'd like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our own Curtis Martin," said owner Woody Johnson, "who will forever stand as one of the greats of the NFL and one of the best to ever wear a Jets uniform. His accomplishments on the field are matched only by his countless acts of kindness and philanthropy off the field during his career, for which he never sought recognition. He exemplifies the very best of the NFL and will now receive the highest admiration, an honor that he very much deserves."
And general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who as assistant GM helped Parcells put together the package that brought Martin from the Patriots to the Jets as a restricted free agent in the first half of 1998, cited Martin's work ethic, durability and ability to play at such a high level.
"I have never come across a player who has been more dedicated to the team and doing his job," Tannenbaum said. "Curtis' tremendous production on the field, regardless of how outstanding it was, pales in comparison to the man he is. An individual of unparalleled integrity, he treats everyone who crosses his path with honesty, kindness and respect and serves as a shining example of how professional athletes should carry themselves on and off the field.
Fourth Long-Tenured Jet in the Hall
The six members of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2012 were announced during the special ceremony aired by NFL Network. The show was conducted inside the Super Bowl Media Center at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis just a couple of blocks away from Lucas Oil Stadium, site of Super Bowl XLVI between the Giants and Patriots on Sunday night.
Martin becomes the seventh person with Jets connections to be voted into football's shrine. The three previous inductees with long Green & White tenures were head coach Weeb Ewbank, enshrined in 1978 in his third year as a finalist; QB Joe Namath (1985, third year). and WR Don Maynard (1987, eighth year).
RB John Riggins, more celebrated as a Washington Redskin, was a first-round draft choice who played his first five pro years with the Jets. He was inducted in 1992. Two hallowed players who spent the last seasons of their careers with the Jets were S Ronnie Lott (inducted in 2000) and WR Art Monk (2008).
Martin was back in the round of 15 modern-era finalists for the second straight year after making it as far as the final 10 last year in his first year of eligibility. Parcells has been described as being in his first year of eligibility only because the Hall decided in 2003 to amend its by-laws to require coaching candidates to be retired for the same mandatory five-year period as it has required players to be. Before that revision, Parcells was also a finalist in 2001 and '02.
paCurtis Martin reflects on Hall of Fame induction (6:53)