Recent Hall of Fame enshrinee Curtis Martin spoke with reporters 90 minutes prior to the Jets' regular-season opener against Buffalo. The 5'11" 207-pounder will have his jersey retired at halftime of today's game.
"I almost feel just like the Hall of Fame," Martin said. "There's a part of this that is almost even bigger than the Hall of Fame, because it's the hometown and the crowd that I played in front of for all those years. I'm just excited."
Martin said he never envisioned himself reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame or having his jersey retired for an NFL franchise. But after gaining 14,101 yards and scoring 90 rushing touchdowns in his career, Martin proved himself wrong. He will be presented his Hall of Fame ring at the halftime ceremony as well.
"Everyone in my family and all my friends, they always joke with me because I'm not a very excitable person," he said. "I get excited right in the moment, so leading up to things I'm usually just the same old Curtis. But I think they've all been able to see a little difference in me today — and leading up to this moment, even more so than the Hall of Fame."
The former Jets great said he doesn't know how his legacy is viewed by outsiders. But he believes it doesn't begin with what he accomplished on the gridiron.
"I think my legacy starts with me as a man," Martin said. "A lot of times I try to read as much of my fan mail as possible. And it's rare that someone talks about a game that I played or a run that I had. Most of the people tell me about the impact that I've had on their lives, how I've inspired them or aspired them to do something better or more in their lives. That's what I want my legacy to be. I want to be known as the man more so than the football player."
The three-time All-AFC pick delivered an emotional, warm, heartfelt speech during his induction in Canton back on Aug. 4. He said the following day he attended an autograph session where an 8-year-old as well as a 90-year-old in a wheelchair expressed to him how much his speech touched their lives.
"I always believe it's the man that makes the game and not the game that makes the man," he said. "I've really tried to create my life around doing what's right. A lot of people say the good guy never wins. I feel like I'm proof that if you do things the right way, and if you work hard enough, the good guy can win."
No. 28 was a good guy and a winner as a player and he continues to be today.