Curtis Martin, one of the semifinalists in the running to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011, was as humble as always when speaking with "voice of the Jets" Bob Wischusen on Inside the Jets on ESPN 1050.
"The Hall of Fame is something that I have much respect for, more so than individual goals during my career," said Martin, who set franchise marks for rushing yards, carries and touchdowns as the Jets tailback from 1998-2005. "I think the Hall of Fame is an elite class. I think to be mentioned and to be honored in such a manner is quite an honor."
Softspoken and understated, Martin was a five-time Pro Bowler and, in his finest NFL season, led the league with 1,697 rushing yards and made the All-Pro first team in 2004. He's the fourth-leading rusher in the history of the NFL with 14,101 rushing yards. Yet throughout his career he tried to keep a low profile. He still credits his success to former Jets coach Bill Parcells as his coach, mentor and father figure throughout his career.
"Much of my life I liked flying under the radar," he said. "I always like to think that my work should speak for itself — my character, my integrity, things like that. I don't like hype. I don't like someone pumping me up to be something that I'm not. … I would appreciate it more if people just felt that I deserved to be [in the Hall of Fame] and my work spoke enough to get the amount of votes that I need to get in."
Martin, a Pittsburgh native who played at the University of Pittsburgh, worked every single day to be the best he could be. Wischusen recounted a story that Terry Bradway, then the Jets general manager and now their senior personnel executive, told about Martin being the only person at the Jets' facility during off days, studying film and his playbooks. From 1995-2004, Martin was the standard of consistency, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons, an NFL record he still shares with Barry Sanders.
"I always think it's important to compete most with yourself," Martin said. "I was always trying to outdo myself, especially when it came to my craft on the field. I knew that I wasn't as talented as a LaDainian Tomlinson or an Adrian Peterson or a Chris Johnson or any of those guys. I always tell people that every single year that I played in the NFL there was at least one if not two people who had more talent than I did.
"I've always believed in outworking everyone on the team, everyone in the organization, whether they are a secretary or whatever, I always wanted to be the best and get the most out of myself."
That's sounds like a Hall of Fame work ethic, and Jets fans would certainly be proud to have another one of their stalwarts enshrined in Canton, Ohio. The Green & White have already honored him in their first Ring of Honor class in August, and he will continue to be a fan favorite for years.
The team also remains a favorite of his. The play of second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez has particularly jumped out to Martin this season.
"One thing that I'm impressed with most is the level of maturity that he seems to exhibit on the field and off the field," Martin said. "To see how he's matured from last year to this year, he seems to have the potential to keep improving for numerous years ahead. I'm excited about what he brings to the Jets organization."
While Martin certainly hopes to be selected to the Hall of Fame in February, his biggest concern these days is off the field, where he has continued his life after football.
"I've always been preparing for that day when I couldn't run the ball anymore," Martin said. "I'm involved in several different businesses, but something that I think the Jets fans and other people would actually be able to look into at some point in time is the charitable things that I do. In my second year I began to take 12 to 15 percent of every check that I've ever received in the NFL and put it aside and I've used it strictly for helping and serving others."