Curtis Martin Moves a Stadium with Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech
By Alan Schechter
I love the game of professional football. I probably love it more than many things in my life. I live and breathe football, especially the New York Jets.
There are times, however, when it becomes easy to forget why I love this game. When every 10 minutes a player is arrested for one thing or another, you think, “Why do I love this?” When your team’s locker room falls apart, it’s hard.
Then you listen to Curtis Martin speak, and it all makes sense. He opens his mouth, and you remember why you love this game. Because it gives us human beings like Curtis Martin.
For anyone who didn’t see his speech, I am going to do the best I can to recreate it the scene.
First of all, Fawcett Stadium was filled with green. Jet Nation was out, and it was out in full force. We were the largest crowd there, only rivaled by Steeler Nation.
The great Fireman Ed was there, and the section I was sitting in got Ed to lead us in the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS chant early, and often. Jets fans young and old were pumped up, and for good reason.
Curtis Martin was taking his place, officially, amongst the game’s very best ever.
Every speech was great. A particularly funny moment during the evening was when Jack Butler stepped up for his speech, and Steeler Nation was cheering away, he told them that “That was enough”. I guess he wanted to move it along.
After every one else had spoken, it was Martin’s turn.
Bill Parcells, who coached him in New England and with the Jets, did the introduction. You could tell from his words, the clear affection Bill has for Curtis. He spoke so wonderfully of him from drafting him with New England, through his years in New York where he became, as Bill put it, “A true professional”.
Then, Curtis took the microphone and captivated an entire stadium.
He opened with a funny joke, telling us about how Willie Roaf, also inducted tonight, wanted everyone to go with him for a manicure and pedicure. Men do that, but when you are talking about an offensive lineman, that is still big even in retirement, it’s very funny.
Curtis went on to talk about his family, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.
He spoke very openly about his Mom, and how he spent a lot of his young life protecting her. His Dad would burn his Mom with cigarettes, set her hair on fire with a lighter, and generally leave her in terrible shape. He couldn’t get through it without shedding tears, and neither could the audience.
We all know that Martin has had a tough life, but never did we know the detail that we learned tonight. From seeing people die, to having a gun held to his head and having the person pull the trigger seven times, Curtis Martin had clearly seen a lot as a young person. Not much of it was good.
A particularly moving moment to me was when Curtis talked about going to his Mom and asking her “Mom are you going crazy?” She responded no, and asked him why he asked her that question. He responded by saying that if anything happened to her, nobody would be left to take care of him(his dad was gone). Imagine that. Imagine having those types of feelings of abandonment at such a young age. Could any of us have turned out as well as him? Hard to say.
His Mom made him do something after school with his time because with everyone else being gone around her, she told her son Curtis that she might as well kill herself if anything happened to him. Could you handle that as a young person just trying to learn about life? I know I couldn’t.
Curtis went on to tell some funny and interesting stories, about not really liking football, about Bill Parcells,..etc. A particularly funny story he told about his playing days was about a hit he took while playing against the Raiders. He felt kind of woozy, and all he could see was black. However, he made it back to the huddle, only seeing black. He was trying to shake the cobwebs, and someone said, “What are you doing?” It was then he realized that he was in the Raiders huddle, and that is why he was seeing black. Very funny.
But the most important things Curtis had to say were about life. He talked about when someone brought to him the realization that football was going to be the way he brought great things to the people of the world. That is when the light bulb went on for Curtis, that football was a “vehicle” to bring great things to people.
He thanked his teammates, owners he played for..etc. But he made a great point. He said that we aren’t judged by the achievements that we earn, but we should be judged by the people that we become as we earn those achievements.
Great thought, isn’t it? It’s not about what we do, it’s about the people that we are.
What a great example to learn from. I am glad I was here to listen to him speak, and he makes us all lucky to have watched him play.
More importantly, though, we are lucky to have known Curtis Martin, through the “vehicle” known as NFL football. Because he is a great human being.
One that football should be about. One that life should be about.
Thanks Curtis Martin. You take your place where you belong, among the elite of football.
Now, life can see you in the same way.