Last night the NFL voted seven very deserving new members into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Curtis Martin was not among those seven new members but his sojurn to Canton wasn't derailed. It was merely delayed. Martin will have his day in Canton, as those who watched him every Sunday can attest to. As great a player as Martin was on the field ,he was and still may be an even greater person off the field.
In an age where we read about players driving drunk, abusing drugs both recreational and steroidal, where first downs are celebrated like Super Bowl winning catches, Curtis Martin did none of those things. Never once did we ever see Martin's name attached to anything other than a positive news story. Whenever Martin scored an important TD or a meaningless one, you could never tell which one he scored by watching him. We never saw him gyrating to some ridiculous end zone celebration. Martin would simply hand the ball to the referee as though he'd been there before and expected to be back there again. The only time you ever saw Martin celebrate on the field was after a big play made by one of his teammates or after a big win.
As one of thousands of men who have played in the NFL, Martin had already placed himself in elite company, but even within that exclusive group Martin managed to somehow distinguished himself even further. His career statistics place him at or near the top of all the career rushing categories, proving how good he was. Martin played in 119 straight games, showing how reliable and durable he was.
In a unblemished career, Martin never did anything on a football field or off it that you couldn't use as a teaching tool today for how to play the game on the field and how to live your life off the field.
Both as a player and a man, Curtis Martin always did the little things to help make both teams and individuals successful. In addition to being an excellent blocker, Martin was a good receiver, averaging 45 catches per year. Martin even had a perfect career QB rating of 158.3, completing all of the few career passes he threw for TD's.
Off the field Martin did things like attend the birthday party of a little boy he never met before simply because he was sent an invitation. No camera crew went with him. He went alone and stayed for the entire party. Another time he once spent two hours on a cold winter night after a game trying to convince a homeless man to sleep in a city run shelter to he wouldn't freeze to death.
As a player he set aside 12%-15% out of every NFL paycheck he ever received for charity, totaling millions of dollars, to help fund programs like The Curtis Martin Job Foundation which helps people find gainful employment.
Curtis Martin didn't get the required vote total last night but his day in Canton will come, probably sooner than later, and he'll no doubt be honored when he eventually gets the call. Martin probably isn't spending too much time dwelling on the news of his coming up short last night or worried about when he will have enough votes. "Why worry about the things you can't control." Martin used to say, "Let me worry about the things I can do something about".
The NFL could use more players like Curtis Martin...and our society needs more men like him.