2012 Hall of Fame: Curtis Martin: 'Who knows where I'd be without football'

The Hall of Fame was never a dream for Martin but still has a hard time believing he's about to be inducted.  (Getty Images)

Curtis Martin didn't come into the league with much fanfare -- an ankle season his senior year at Pittsburgh saw him slip down draft boards -- but the former third-round pick quickly established himself as a durable playmaker, capable of delivering between-the-tackles punishment while also nimble enough to make plays in the passing game.

2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame

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His career spanned 11 seasons, the first three with the Patriots and the final eight with the Jets, where he rushed for 14,101 yards and 90 touchdowns. He added 3,329 receiving yards and 10 scores. His best season game in 2004, his next-to-last in the league, when he rushed for 1,697 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Perhaps more impressive than a 31-year-old putting up those kind of numbers: Martin had 10 consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 rushing yards, including a rookie total of 1,487.

Other accolades include: offensive rookie of the year (1995), a five-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro, NFL rushing champion (2004), NFL player of the year (2004), the Jets all-time leading rusher, and the No. 4 on the NFL's all-time rushing list behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, all Hall of Famers.

Martin, who grew up in Pittsburgh, didn't play football until his senior year of high school, and that was only after his mother talked him into it if for no other reason than to give him an escape from the crime that pervaded his neighborhood. (Martin's grandmother had been murdered, and he once had a gun pointed at his head, the trigger pulled multiple times but for some reason didn't fire.)

“I was somewhat forced to play football because of the circumstances I grew up in; it became my escape,” Martin told the New York Times. “Who knows where I’d be without football.”

And who knows where football would be without Martin. When coach Bill Parcells left the Patriots for the Jets, he signed Martin, a restricted free agent after the 1997 season, to a six-year, $36-million offer sheet. New England chose not to match and Martin and Parcells were reunited. On Saturday, Parcells will present Martin during the Hall of Fame ceremonies.

He had a huge impact on my life,” Martin, speaking to the Boston Globe, said of Parcells. “My career would not have been half of what it was if it wasn’t for Bill Parcells. I think he not only taught me how to be a running back, but I think he taught me how to be a professional. And not only how to be a professional, but how to be a man. He was the first man that I looked up to. He was a huge part of my life.”

But Canton wasn't the driving force behind his career.

“That was never a dream,” Martin told the Globe. “Football was never a dream for me. I ended up playing football just to stay out of trouble and stay alive . . . So the Hall of Fame was not even something that I dreamed about dreaming about. It wasn’t even in my thought process. …

“It’s just starting to hit me,” he continued. “I’m still having a problem just really understanding that something that was so far outside of my dreams or my aspirations is actually happening right now.”

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CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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