Curtis Martin Reflects on Football at Luncheon


Curtis Martin is the greatest player ever to put on a Jets uniform not named Joe Namath. He is one of the top running backs ever to put on any uniform, and will take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame next weekend. (I will be there to cover). Today, he reflected on several topics at a luncheon where he talked to a small group of reporters.

Believe it or not, he never considered football a passion of his, nor does he now:

“Football was a headache for me,” Martin told a small gathering of reporters at a restaurant in Manhattan Monday. “I felt it was just something I didn’t have the time to do. I didn’t want to do it. For me, it just wasn’t fun.”

It may have saved his life, growing up in a crime-laden area of Pittsburgh, but he never found it fun. Imagine that? As great as Curtis Martin was, he didn’t enjoy playing football. Imagine if he did?

Instead, he considered it basically his life’s assignment. Take a look:

“I may not have wanted to play, but I believe you have to do things,” said Martin, who still lives in Garden City. “You know the saying, ‘You have to do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.’ I always felt like that was my assignment. Football was like my basic training for life. I’ve learned how to work hard, how to commit, so many things I didn’t know how to do until I had football in my life.”

Interesting to hear from one of the game’s all-time greats, huh?

Turn the page for more.

Curtis also talked about the mentality regarding head injuries when he played. Specifically, how he fought through a great many head injuries, with his teammates aid.

“This was just the mentality, it’s no fault of the NFL or anything, it’s just a part of the game,” Martin told reporters today at a luncheon in New York, in advance of his induction. “When I would get hit, they knew that I popped up just like that, every time I get hit. … Any time that I didn’t pop up, my fullback knew to come pick me up because I was probably either dazed or knocked out.”

He wouldn’t tell the reporters how many concussions he had, due to the sensitivity of the issue these days, but he said he had “…more than enough”. He said became an expert at hiding them. He said balancing the idea of creating a safer game, along with keeping a player’s pride up, is the toughest thing about this situation.

Martin is not worried about long term health issues, although he admits that his short memory is not as good as it used to be. He understands that as players become faster and stronger, maintaining player health is of the utmost concern. However, he knows that there is an element of risk that can’t be avoided.

“The hits are going to be harder, and I just don’t know what the NFL can do to prevent that because it still is the game of football,” Martin said. “As an athlete, there is a certain part of it that you just have to accept, that certain things are probably going to happen. … For me to play 11 years, and I carried the ball just about more than any running back in that 11-year span in history, the likelihood of me having some type of slight damage, that’s just the risk I had to take.”

On his own health, he added:

“I’m not worried because I took too many. Again, I look at it and I say that’s just part of the game. If I was going to worry about that, I felt like I just wouldn’t have played the game, because you cant avoid it, and I don’t think there’s anything they can do to prevent it. What can you do? If you change that aspect of it, it’s not football anymore, it’s probably rugby or lacrosse.”

Curtis Martin doesn’t have a son. If he did, he said he would try to steer that son away from football, due to the health risks.

The most amazing thing to take out of that is that Curtis Martin didn’t really enjoy the game. For someone to be good at something that they don’t even like, all I can say is wow. It makes you wonder if he could have even been better, had he enjoyed the game? We will never know about that.

He has a very realistic take on the concussion thing as well. There are risks involved in the game that just can’t be avoided.

Curtis actually had an interesting take on Sanchez/Tebow, turn the page.

Take a read:

“I don’t know that my career would have been as good as it was without LaMont Jordan right on my heels all the time,” Martin explained. “I know that I would have always pushed myself because I always compete with me, I don’t think that anyone could compete with me as hard as I do. But having LaMont Jordan there, it just — I don’t know if I win the rushing title in my 10th year (without him). I think this can be a good truing for mark, this could be that thing that pushes him to another level.”

He knows the coexistence of the two quarterbacks can be difficult, and that Tim will get his chance if Mark falters, and make the most of it:

But I think Mark is really talented, and I think he has the ability to be the starting quarterback for a long time here at the New York Jets,” Martin said. “And I think he’s a guy who hasn’t even tapped into what he’s really capable of. For his sake, and for the team’s sake, I hope that it happens this year — moreso than what it has happened. I think hes already done well, but I think there’s a lot more in him.”

Curtis Martin makes a good point on this, and I think it’s what the Jets are looking for. He talks about how his career was improved by a guy pushing him, and thinks the same thing can happen for Mark. Competition does make people better, and if that is what happens, the move will be worthwhile.

Like I always say, we can only hope.