Versatile. Consistent. Durable. These are some of the words that best describe Curtis Martin, who was named among the semi-finalists to go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Martin was not the fastest running back, nor was he the most powerful, but he was the perfect blend of both. Martin used his vision and hit the hole with speed and power, making him a tough runner to stop.
Drafted in the third round out of Pitt in 1996, Curtis Martin was a star right out of the gate for the Patriots. Martin rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, scored 14 touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl, all in his rookie year.
His success with the Pats continued the following two seasons as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each season, scored 18 touchdowns, and helped lead the Pats to Superbowl XXXI.
In the 1997 offseason, the rival New York Jets snagged Curtis Martin from free agency, signing him to a six-year, $36 million contract. But that wasn’t the only price the Jets had to pay. They also had to give the Pats first- and third-round draft picks as compensation, but the Jets would later find out it was well worth the price.
Martin had an instant impact on his new team. In his first season with the Jets, he rushed for over 1,200 yards and helped lead them to the AFC championship.
Martin continued to be a huge success for the Jets, helping them get to two more playoff appearances, and rushed for six more 1,000-yard seasons.
In Martin’s seventh season with the Jets, he rushed for 1,697 rushing yards, edging out Shaun Alexander for the rushing title by one yard. In that season he also helped lead the Jets to a 10-6 record and the divisional championship game against the Steelers, which the Jets lost mainly due to their former kicker, Doug Brien.
Martin’s last season with the Jets was in 2005, when he rushed for 735 yards and missed four games due to injury. However, during Curtis Martins’ eight-year career with the Jets, he only missed one other game out of 128 total, and led the Jets to four playoff appearances in eight seasons. He eventually retired in 2007.
Martin is one of the most consistent running backs in history, being the only player to rush for 1,000 yards in 11 straight seasons, an NFL record. During his career, Martin made five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. He finished his career 12th all-time in rushing touchdowns with 90 total, seventh all-time in yards from scrimmage, with over 17,000, and third all-time in rushing attempts with 3,518 carries.
Martin even finished his career with a perfect passer rating, having thrown two passes, both for touchdowns. One of those passes helped the Jets get a victory and Wayne Cherebet get revenge in the infamous “Flashlight Game.”
But to me, the most important stat: Martin is fourth all-time in rushing yards with 14,101 yards. The only three players to have rushed for more yards are Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, arguably the best three running backs of all time. Notable Hall of Famers behind Martin in rushing yards are Eric Dickerson, Jim Brown, and Tony Dorsett.
If that does not say Hall of Famer, I don’t know what does.