Favorite Jet not named Joe Namath? Curtis Martin! Speed, toughness and class.
Martin began his professional career with the Patriots, who selected him in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft. As a free agent in 1998, he joined the Jets where he finished his career in 2006 due to a career-ending knee injury. He retired as the fourth leading rusher in NFL history. He was selected as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Martin signed a contract with the team on July 19, 1995, and made his NFL debut in the Patriots’ week one win over the Cleveland Browns. Martin ran for 30 yards on his first carry and finished with 102 yards for the day. He became the first Patriots rookie to rush for 100 yards during their debut.Martin continued his impressive streak and rushed for over 100 yards eight more times during the season. He finished the season as the AFC’s leading rusher with 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns. He won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and was named to the Pro Bowl.
The following year, Martin only rushed for 100 yards twice during the season but recorded 1,152 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. In the playoffs, Martin, playing in his first career playoff game, served as a key player in the Patriots’ wild card victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He rushed for a then franchise record 166 yards and three touchdowns including a 78-yard touchdown, the second longest touchdown run in playoff history at the time. The Patriots went on to play in Super Bowl XXXI, but lost to the Green Bay Packers. Martin rushed for 42 yards, caught three passes for 28 yards, and scored a touchdown in the game. Martin was again named to the Pro Bowl.
On March 20, 1998, Martin signed a six-year $36 million poison pill contract. The “poison pill” was a clause in the contract that stated Martin would become an unrestricted free agent after one-year if the Patriots matched the offer and it would have forced New England to pay a $3.3 million roster bonus that would have compromised their salary cap.
In his first seven seasons with the Jets, Martin missed only one game and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times. In 1998, Martin gained 182 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Jets playoff win. In 2004, Martin rushed for a season-high 196 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in the team’s home opener and would do so eight more times that season, finishing with 1,697 yards. Martin won the NFL rushing title by one more yard than runner-up Shaun Alexanderand became the oldest player, at age 31, in league history to win the rushing title. Martin was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Year and named an All-Pro and elected to his fifth and final Pro Bowl.
In 2005, Martin suffered what was deemed as a strained right knee injury in the Jets’ second game of the season against the Miami Dolphins, when he was tackled by linebacker Zach Thomas. An MRI of the knee was negative and Martin continued to play through the season despite a noticeable drop-off in production, having only rushed for 100 or more yards once the entire season. On November 27, 2005, Martin joined Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith as the only running backs to rush for 14,000 yards in their career.By December, the severity of the knee injury began to increase and Martin, despite wanting to become the second player (after Smith) to rush for 1,000 yards in 11 straight seasons, elected to have season-ending surgery, finishing with 735 yards on the season.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights…Curtis Martin.
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