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Hall of Fame Passes on Curtis Martin...for Now

Curtis Martin said this week that if he gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight, "I'll be elated," and if he didn't, "It's just the way it happens. ... Hopefully some other year."

It will have to be another year, hopefully and quite possibly a year from now at Indianapolis, before he gains entry to the Shrine. Martin, who made a run all the way  to the "final 10" finalists, did not make it to the top five and so will not join the Class of 2011 as voted by the 44-member Hall of Fame selection committee earlier today.

That Class of '11 — DE Richard Dent, RB Marshall Faulk, senior committe linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, CB/KR/PR Deion Sanders and TE Shannon Sharpe — was unveiled this evening in the first primetime broadcast of the annual Hall of Fame announcement by NFL Network.

The seven will be formally installed in the Hall on Aug. 6 at the Class of 2011 Enshrinement Ceremony at Canton's Fawcett Stadium, which will highlight a 10-day enshrinement festival in the big little Ohio town.

Martin, who said this week he was "excited" at the prospect of being selected to the Hall, said he would be watching TV tonight at his Long Island home and awaiting word from the selection committee about whether he made the Hall or not. At about 10:50 p.m. ET, he issued this statement through the Jets' media relations department:

"I think the voting committee did a great job selecting the 2011 class. If I were a part of the committee I can't say that I would have voted any differently. I'm not being modest at all, but I truly don't feel that there's anyone in this year's class that I should have bested in the voting process. Of course I would have loved to get in this year, but number one, the inductees truly deserved it, and number two, there's always next year! I thank you all for the recognition and congratulations to this year's inductees."

Among Martin's on-field accomplishments, he is the fourth-leading all-time rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards, is one of only two players to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons, remains the oldest player in NFL history to win a rushing title (1,697 yards at the age of 31 in 2004), averaged the most offensive touches per game (23.8) in league history, and has the Jets Team MVP Award named for him after he won it in the votes of his teammates four times.

Additionally, he rarely fumbled, was an accomplished receiver and blocker, excelled while playing in sometimes great pain, and regularly inspired his teammates through his words and actions. And many former teammates, foes and Hall of Famers — including Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Bill Parcells and Bill  Belichick — talked of Martin's credentials that merited his inclusion in this year's class.

Those are surely Hall of Fame credentials. Martin's entry may have been delayed by the crowded field at his position among the 17 finalists — both Marshall Faulk and Jerome Bettis were also first-ballot candidates — but there is no question that No. 28 will be back knocking on the Hall's door again a year from now and every year it takes until he gets in.

When Martin, who spent his first three pro seasons with the Patriots, is voted to be enshrined, he'll become the seventh player with Jets connections to be selected for the Hall and the first "home-grown" Jet to make it since WR Don Maynard, in the Class of '87, joined QB Joe Namath and head coach Weeb Ewbank in those hallowed halls. Of the other three with Green & White ties, RB John Riggins was a first-round draft choice of the Jets but went on to Super Bowl fame with the Redskins, while S Ronnie Lott and WR Art Monk spent limited time at the ends of their careers with the team.

Every Hall of Fame candidate has similar stats and testimonials in his favor. All have to endure the annual process which reduces a preliminary nominee list of more than 100 names down to 26 semifinalists and then 15 modern-era finalists. Finally, those 15 finalists get "into the room" where the 44 members of the selection committee whittle that list to 10, then to six before casting up or down votes on each of the final half-dozen.

This year's class appeared to be a tough one to pin down. Although no details are available and no vote totals are ever released, today's selection meeting at the Sheraton Dallas media center lasted from 9 a.m. to about 4:15 p.m., a 7-hour, 15-minute extravaganza that was one of the longest selection meetings in Hall of Fame history.

The length was in keeping with the difficulty of the job in front of the selectors this year. As one veteran selector told after the Hall of Fame Class of '11 was revealed, "This was as tough a class to vote on as I have ever seen."

But, the voter added, "Curtis will get in some day, I'm sure of that." So are we.

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