EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Curtis Martin was decked out in a Jets green tie and shoes, looking sharp as ever on another big day for the Hall of Fame running back.
The Jets retired his No. 28 jersey at halftime of New York’s season-opening game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Martin, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month, will join three of the biggest names in franchise history — Joe Namath (No. 12), Don Maynard (13) and Joe Klecko (73) — as the only players to receive the prestigious honor.
“Words can’t express it,” a smiling Martin said before the game. “I almost feel just like the Hall of Fame. There’s a part of this that’s almost even bigger than the Hall of Fame because it’s the hometown, the crowd I played in front of for all these years.”
The whole idea had Martin pretty excited, something he said usually wouldn’t happen for him until he ran out of the tunnel before a game. He’ll also receive his Hall of Fame ring during the ceremony at MetLife Stadium.
“I never even thought I would come close to anything like this,” Martin said, “so I’m just so excited, so humbled and so appreciative.”
The 39-year-old Martin played his first three NFL seasons with New England before signing with New York in 1998. He is fourth on the NFL’s career rushing list with 14,101 yards, but has always thought his reputation for being one of the classiest players in the game while he was playing was most important.
“I think my legacy starts with me as a man,” he said. “I try to read all the fan mail as much as possible, and it’s rare that someone talks about a game that I played or a run that I had. Most of the people tell me that about the impact that I had on their lives, how I inspired them to do something better or more in their lives. And that’s what I want my legacy to be. I want to be known as the man more so than the football player.”
Martin had one of the most heartfelt speeches during his Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio, bringing many in the crowd of 12,100 to tears as he spoke of the hardships he and his mother, Rochella, endured while he grew up in the Pittsburgh area.
The former running back said he met an 8-year-old boy the next day at an autograph signing, and he tried to tell Martin how moved he was by the speech. A few moments later, a man who Martin guessed was about 90 years old, had a similar message for him.
“I’ve tried to create my life around doing what’s right,” Martin said. “A lot of people say the good guy never wins. I feel like I’m proof that if you do things the right way and if you work hard enough, the good guy can win.”
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