Retired New York Jets running back Curtis Martin was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night, capping the night by delivering an emotional speech that centered around his relationship with the game of football and some of the lessons he learned throughout his life. Curtis Martin spoke to the crowd about how he never liked football, but football saved him. His faith and his football career have taken him far away from the rough upbringing he endured. Now he is part of the NFL Hall of Fame club.
Curtis Martin was always seen as a great representative of the New York Jets franchise, but as a member of the Hall of Fame he has officially become an ambassador of the game. It's tough to be an ambassador for something you don't like, and Curtis Martin will tell you that he never liked football. For Curtis Martin, football was a way out.
As much as this weekend was about celebrating Curtis Martin, he was also changed by it:
"Let me say this: This weekend, and I'll tell you this, and this is God's honest truth, I came up here. I had a chance to spend time with the older guys and the guys who have been inducted. I had a chance to listen to their experience. On Friday morning, we went and listened to Ralph Wilson speak. Just the passion that he had for this game, being one of the founders, one of the founding fathers of this game, there was something that rubbed off on me, and literally yesterday I felt like it was my first day as a fan of the game of football."
Curtis Martin focused much of his speech on those who influenced him, from his mother Rochella Dixon to Bill Parcells, as well as telling some of the wild stories from his time as a child and young man without much guidance. Curtis Martin had more than a few brushes with death before he even reached the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, which, as Martin put it, combined "two thing that's I don't like, football and school.”
Curtis Martin told those gathered about how he watched his mother endure a torturous existence until his father's death, as Curtis Martin's father would burn her with cigarettes, beat her and do all kinds of unspeakable things. With those closest to him all passing away while he was young – his father, grandmother, aunt – as well as his own brushes with death, Curtis Martin was convinced he wouldn't live past the age of 21.
Curtis Martin told those gathered about one of those brushes with death, when he was 15 years old:
"By the time I was 15, growing up in the environment that I was in, I had so many brushes with death. I remember one distinct time a guy had a gun to my head, a loaded gun to my head, pulled the trigger seven times. God's honest truth, the bullet didn't come out. He wasn't pointing the gun at me and pulled the trigger and a bullet came out. I was too young to even recognize that God was saving my life."
Curtis Martin will always hold a special place in the hearts of Jets fans, and he probably earned a few new fans with his excellent Hall of Fame speech. It's not really a surprise that he would put together a great speech straight from the heart, that's just the way Curtis martin does things. Make sure to check out the rest of Curtis Martin's speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.
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