Six new members have officially been ushered in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame following Saturday night’s ceremonies. All six were well-deserved, including former Steelers’ cornerback Jack Butler, who played in the 1950s and has been waiting 53 years to receive his call from the Hall.
Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf and Curtis Martin were the remaining five to be celebrated and embraced in Canton, Ohio this evening.
As always, the speeches and stories of the former NFL players were touching and emotional, but there was one in particular that caught my attention and had all the components of a tear-jerker. It was former New England Patriots and New York Jets running back Curtis Martin.
In his second year of eligibility, the fourth leading rusher of all-time got his chance at eternal glory. Martin’s former head coach in both New England and New York, Bill Parcells, awaiting his own call to the HOF, was in attendance and was Martin’s presenter.
With 14,101 rushing yards, 90 rushing TDs, five Pro Bowls and 10 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in his 11 years in the league, Martin was the main attraction at the ceremonies, therefore making him the last speaker of the evening. And, boy, was it quite the finale.
I was well-aware of his antics and accomplishments on the football field, of course, growing up watching him play. He was, in my opinion, one of the most underrated runners of his time despite his career marks.
But what I wasn’t aware of was his rough childhood and all of the things he was forced to overcome, doing so successfully as we can all see.
He gave a tremendous tribute to his mother, as he told anecdotes of stories from growing up with her, who was faced with beatings and what Martin described as “torture” from his father. She dealt with numerous family deaths, which were often gruesome homicides. He gave full credit to his mother for raising him the way she did and, as he choked up a bit, he poured his heart out for everyone as his mother tried to fight the tears away herself.
I think I can personally say that Martin delivered one of the most touching HOF acceptance speeches I have seen in quite a while, and I would even rank it ahead of Michael Irvin’s in 2007 which was also tear-filled, maybe a little more so than the norm.
Giving credit to his former coaches, recognizing all his position coaches over his career and personally recognizing his former high school football coach, Martin showed how classy he is. He and Parcells have a very personal relationship and, “Wonder Boy,” as Parcells used to refer to him as, Martin embraced and cherished that relationship throughout his career, as reflected in his speech.
Martin instructed for all of his former teammates at Pittsburgh (where he played his college ball), New England and New York that were in attendance that night to stand up so he could give them credit, as well.
The quote I liked the best out of everything he said during his speech came when he stated that earlier in the week a reporter asked him if he’d let his kid play football. At first, he said he’d probably be reluctant to do so (referring to the dangers of the sport). But he then responded with: “If my kid can learn what I learned from this game, I’d probably let him play. It’s worth the risk.”
Going from a kid, with a rough childhood, who didn’t even like football and thought he was a better baseball player, to a 39-year old inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Quite a turn-around for Mr. Curtis Martin, I’d say.
Note: I do not own the above images. No copyright infringement intended.
Additional note: As soon as a decent video of his speech is uploaded to Youtube I will post it for your viewing pleasure.
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