Curtis Martin: Why Jets Legend's Hall of Fame Speech Is Unforgettable

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVAugust 5, 2012

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 4: Former running back Curtis Martin with his bust during the Class of 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Fawcett Stadium on August 4, 2012 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

When Curtis Martin took the stage as the last inductee of the 2012 Hall of Fame class to speak to the crowd of NFL greats, loved ones and fans, it was a foregone conclusion that an emotional speech was on its way.

But no one expected the type of performance that we got Saturday night.

Most of these Hall of Fame speeches are all too similar. A former great player shines some light on his career, says some touching words about their mentors and family, and thanks everyone from the fans to their former players.

But Martin's speech took that conventionality and tossed it out of the window.

A calm, satisfied and approachable Martin was honest about everything. Without much of a speech prepared and speaking straight from his thoughts, he had to be.

It's been well-documented that Martin had a very tough upbringing as a child, but he revealed such grueling stories that had you wondering at times whether or not he meant to go as far as he did. Regardless, he walked that line carefully and it produced an unforgettable speech. 

Telling his memories of his late father's abuse on Martin's mother (who was in attendance) before he was even five years old sent shockwaves through the crowd. After her abusive husband and her own mother died before young Curtis was 10 years old, she was left trying to raise a child in one of the most dangerous communities in Pittsburgh. 

Without many positive influences around, Martin often found himself in near-death situations involving gang violence and gunfights. He told multiple personal accounts of situations where he was lucky to be alive, and never thought he'd see his 21st birthday.

Martin's brutal honesty didn't stop there. Multiple times, Martin pointed to his well-known confession that he doesn't even like football, and that he picked it up to stay out of trouble. He admitted that, to this day, he could probably count on a single hand how many football games he's watched from start to finish. 

It's insane to think that the fourth-most all-time leading rusher in NFL history doesn't have love for the game that millions of players and fans across the country have. But he found out early on that he could use his success in football as a vehicle to do other positive things with his life. 

With an abusive father who died when Martin was just four years old, the standout running back needed a male presence in his life. That's where coach Bill Parcells came in.

Parcells drafted Martin when he was with the New England Patriots, and he later pulled a blockbuster move with the Jets in signing the rusher away from their bitter rival. Martin told the crowd of many lessons Parcells taught him about work ethic and determination. 

It was only fitting that Parcells presented his former running back Saturday night in Canton. 

Whether you liked Martin's play on the field or not, it's impossible to watch his speech Saturday and not become an instant fan.

His personal account of childhood makes life's struggles seem insignificant, and his desire to work hard just for the sake of working hard is as admirable as it gets.

Football was lucky to have a person like Curtis Martin, but the world is even luckier to have him. 

The world needs more Curtis Martins.