MOVING UP MARTIN RETIRES, SETS SIGHTS ON OWNERSHIP
By MARK CANNIZZARO
July 27, 2007 -- Those were the first words spoken by Curtis Martin as he sat with a handful of reporters and columnists who’ve covered him for the better part of his remarkable 11-year NFL career.
The group was gathered at the Jets’ midtown Manhattan office for Martin’s official announcement of retirement as a player, but this was not a sad affair dominated by conflicted emotions and flecked with tears.
In the place of an emotional farewell to the game that’ll place him in the Hall of Fame in 2012 (his first year of eligibility) was a proud announcement of a new beginning for Martin.
Martin revealed that he’s leaving the game as a player to become an NFL owner. He said he’s “very close” to landing a piece of NFL ownership, but he had to be cryptic about the details regarding which team and with whom he’s involved because the negotiations are still ongoing.
“When you’ve been looking at me as a player,” said Martin, who throughout his playing career always said football was a means for something greater than 100-yard rushing performances and touchdown runs. “I’ve been looking at myself as an owner. I was a low-profile player, but I see myself as a high-profile owner. There’s always been a rhyme to my reason.”
Martin’s career is dotted with remarkable achievements, including finishing fourth on the all-time NFL rushing list with 14,101 yards and joining Barry Sanders as the only running backs in league history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in each of his first 10 seasons in the league.
He, too, is third on the NFL’s all-time list with 3,518 carries and 20th with 100 touchdowns, including 90 rushing. His 17,430 yards from scrimmage rank seventh all-time.
Martin, who won his only NFL rushing title in 2004 (his final full season) with a career-high 1,697 yards, also owns the Jets’ career record with 10,302 rushing yards.
None of those grand accomplishments, though, mattered much to Martin.
“I always played for my team and played to open doors to impact people’s lives,” he said. “That’s what has always made me go - to fulfill a greater cause. I look at my 12-year career as a means to a greater end.”
That greater end, of course, is ownership.
“I’ve always wanted to own an NFL team,” he said. “Playing football has been my basic training for ownership.”
Martin said he’s spoken to a lot of owners, including Woody Johnson from the Jets and Robert Kraft from the Patriots, to seek advice.
“I’ve always thought it was important to get advice from people who are where you want to be,” Martin said. “I want to be an owner who can think the way a player thinks. That’s why I practiced the way I did and played the way I did, because I always wanted to practice the way an owner wanted his players to practice.”
Martin, for whom the Jets will conduct a grand ceremony to celebrate his retirement at a yet-to-be-determined Manhattan location sometime before the regular season begins, walks away with his health.
He said the right knee, which has a bone-on-bone condition and was the reason for his retirement, only bothers him when he exerts at full speed. It should be fine for the rest of his life doing normal everyday things.
He also walks away with this new beginning, one that also includes teaming with New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg in a program to reduce homelessness in New York.
“I don’t see this as a sad time,” Martin said. “Someone asked me, ‘What was the best moment of your career?’ I said, ‘Right now.’ I don’t have any regrets. I’m leaving this game exactly how I wanted. Retirement to me is not an end but a beginning.”
When he was asked what he’ll miss most about not playing anymore, Martin didn’t have to ponder his answer very long.
“The tunnel,” he said. “I’m going to miss coming out of that tunnel.”
He’ll be missed much, much more by those who’ve been privileged enough to watch him run out of that tunnel throughout his marvelous career.
What a rush
NFL career rushing leaders:
Fantasy Football: "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"