One perhaps unusual trait about new Jets bellcow back Matt Forté is this: A lot of NFL players who go to other teams don't know their new team's history right away.
Matt knows a little Jets history. Specifically, he knows Curtis Martin.
"I actually have Curtis' Jets throwback jersey. I got one for Christmas maybe my junior or senior year in high school," Forté told me this morning. "I'm a big fan of his. Looking at the history of Chicago running backs and then coming to the Jets, you can't help but think of Curtis.
"I met him at the Super Bowl in February, and when I talked with him, you can see what a nice and humble guy he is, what kind of running back he was and what kind of person he is. It's great to be following in the footsteps of a guy like that."
Forté proceeded to drop some fast facts about No. 28, the Pro Football Hall of Famer and charter Ring of Honor member, about how he "had over 10,000 rushing yards just with the Jets [10,302 to be exact] despite coming from a different team. Also, he led the league in rushing [after turning] 30 years old, which is a big motivation factor in my thinking."
Forté's had his fill of hearing how hearing how he's hit the unofficial retirement age for NFL ballcarriers (he turned 30 last December).
"It means a lot especially for a team and an organization like the Jets to think enough of me despite all the negative things everybody puts on 30-year-old running backs," he said.
There is no denying that for many backs, it's all downhill from 30. Eric Dickerson's last great year came after his 29th birthday, Marshall Faulk began to slow down after 28. LaDainian Tomlinson, still a sturdy Jets contributor his last two seasons, became a Jet because the Chargers let him go a year after his last 1,000-yard season at 29.
But then there's Martin, whose best NFL year was 2004, when he became the oldest NFL back to lead the league in rushing with 1,697 yards at 31. Walter Payton, one of the Bears' and the NFL's patron saints, turned his last 1,000-yard season at 32. Emmitt Smith was also a grand rusher through 32.
There are any number of reasons to suspect Forté will bust through the artificial age barrier. He's been known as "Workhorse" for his gym-rat predisposition for hard work. Chan Gailey's offense seems like a great fit for his skills, especially catching the ball out of the backfield.
He's also among some Chicago friends on the Jets — WR Brandon Marshall, of course, was his Bears teammate for three years, and TE Kellen Davis, with whom he worked out for the 2008 combine, was with him for five years in the Windy City.
And he said it's time for his pit bull, Ali, who turns 4 next month (28 in human years?) to "get out there and run around and get in shape, too," just as he did while running alongside Forté up and down The Hill in Arlington Heights, IL, the past few years.
Veteran RB Tours His New Home
"Visiting the facility, seeing how nice it is, talking with the training staff, knowing how educated they are about keeping you healthy and wanting to keep you on the field, it's just a top-notch organization," Forté said of the Jets. "That's an enticing factor for you to want to play there because you know everything's already basically taken care of for you training-wise and nutrition-wise."
If Jets fans need more evidence to embrace Forté's arrival in the wake of Chris Ivory's departure in free agency, there is the widely circulated sentiment on his Instagram page: "I hope to bring a championship home as well as a rushing title like one of your greats, Curtis Martin. J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!"