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My Favourite Jets: #1
I hope you all have those Friday vibes ahead of the weekend. Just a quick reminder that this is a pre-written post as I’m taking this week off to holiday with my family in Spain.
We’ll be back to normal programming from Monday onwards!
Today I’m completing my countdown of my favorite Jets of all time, not the best Jets, but my favorite players.
So far this week we’ve covered Don Maynard, Chad Pennington, David Harris, and the combination of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Today I’m talking all things Curtis Martin, who just so happens to be one of the very best Jets of all time.
A five-time pro-bowler and All-Pro in 2004, Martin finished his career with over 14,000 rushing yards, 90 rushing touchdowns, 484 receptions for 3,329 yards, and 10 touchdowns. He’s already in the Hall of Fame, his #28 has been retired by the Jets and he’s a proud Ring of Honor member. I could end this newsletter right here and I think everyone would understand why Curtis Martin is #1 on my list and many others too.
But, let’s talk about Curtis Martin, the man who started his career as a member of the New England Patriots. A 3rd round pick out of Pittsburgh in the 1995 NFL draft, he would have been selected much higher had injuries not derailed his college career. Remember the 1995 draft was the draft where running back Ki-Jana Carter out of Penn State went #1 overall to the Bengals, he finished his career with 1,144 rushing yards.
2004 was one of the first years that I realized something we all come to realize sooner or later, that the performance of the Jets had the potential to affect my mood considerably. Fortunately for me that 2004 season was also a relatively successful one by the Jets’ standard. It may have ended in agonizing fashion against Pittsburgh thanks to some questionable calls and Doug Brien’s leg, but it gave us a mini play-off run. It gave us three pro-bowlers in Martin, center Kevin Mawae and defensive end John Abraham, and it gave us a rushing title.
Martin racked up a ridiculous career-high 1,697 rushing yards in his penultimate season as a professional, that number was good enough to lead the league and earn him the rushing crown. Years later it was revealed by Martin himself that he played much of that season with a torn MCL in his knee:
"My MCL had almost a grade 3 tear in it," Martin told Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It was so loose. I played with it from I believe the sixth or seventh game throughout the rest of the season. At the time, the doctors were telling me that I needed to sit out and let it rest and I may need surgery."
Not knowing what to do, he called up his former coach Bill Parcells and asked for some advice and here’s how that conversation went in Martin’s own words:
"I said, 'Coach, look, this thing is really bothering me. It feels wobbly, like I don't even feel stable on it. What do you think I should do?' I said, 'I think I can bear the pain, it's not the pain, it's just whether or not it's best for me.'
"He said, 'Well, you know Boy Wonder, I always think that you should take care of your body, take care of yourself. I think that's your priority and that's what you should do because you never know how it will effect you longterm. But on the other hand, you never really wanna come out of the huddle because you never know who's going into the huddle.' And that just stuck with me forever. He had told me something similar to that when I was a rookie, and so it's always been my passion that no one else should ever get in that huddle."
Unfortunately for Martin, he suffered a knee injury at the start of the 2005 season that would ultimately lead to his retirement in 2007. At the time of his retirement, he was one of four running backs to have rushed for over 14,000 yards Martin alongside Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith, that’s some nice company to keep. Adrian Peterson has since joined that list.
But how did one of the best running backs in history make his way from New England to New York?
Following the 1997 season, Martin became a restricted free agent. His agent at the time was a guy named Eugene Parker who had a good relationship with Bill Parcells who coached Martin in New England and who was now with the Jets. Parker asked Bill if he was interested in Martin and of course, the answer was yes. An offer sheet was put together that made it impossible for the New England Patriots to match. The six-year, $36-million contract included a “poison pill”, which basically stated that if the Patriots matched the offer Martin would become an unrestricted free agent in 2008, it also stated that if matched New England would pay Martin a $3.3 million roster bonus which they just couldn’t afford to do within their salary cap limitations.
The result was the Jets got Martin and New England after crying foul to the NFL were awarded the jets 1st and 3rd round selections in the 1998 NFL draft. The Patriots turned those picks into Georgia running back Robert Edwards (1,222 career rushing yards) and Michigan Fullback Chris Floyd (out of the league by 2001), so I would say it was worth it for the Jets.
I love Martin for a lot of reasons but his journey is certainly one of them. He didn’t play football until his senior year in high school (1,705 yards and 20 TDS), and he grew up in a rough neighborhood in Western Pennsylvania. His dad became addicted to crack cocaine and left the family when Curtis was just 5 years old. It was reported that Martin found his grandmother stabbed to death by a desperate man who needed cash for his phone bill.
Through all of that Martin never held a grudge, speaking in 2012 about his father he said:
“I never held a grudge. It was him not wanting to be involved in my life. I understand that. he was strung out on drugs.”
“I understand the shame that he had and I never held it against him. It was always in my plans to do something for him, but I wanted to make sure he was fully rehabbed.”
But most of all it was his performances on the field. He was quick but not lightning fast, he was patient with unrivaled vision, he had strength and defenders seemed to just bounce off him and his stiff arm is to this day, the best stiff arm of any RB 'I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Martin was a lot of things to a lot of people, and he continues to help people to this day with his community work, but he’ll always be my favorite Jet of all time.
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has read TJW this week while I’ve been away. I know it hasn’t been the up-to-date content that we like to pride ourselves on here but I didn’t want to leave a whole week without content, so I hope you took some enjoyment from it.
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