Curtis Martin Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 4, 2012
First of all, I just want to thank you all. It's been a long night, and thank you for your patience and your support for everybody up here on this stage. I also want to thank Cortez Kennedy for speaking so long that God decided to turn the lights out. Also, you know something, I learned so much this weekend. Something I didn't know, excuse me for a second. This has nothing to do with the Hall of Fame.
But Willie Roaf, can you stand up for one second? You see how big this man is? So we come in on Thursday, and we're all sitting around, and this big dude, right here, imagine this guy is so big. He said, “Hey, y'all, let's go get some mani and pedis and go get a facial.” I said, “What, man, what?” All right, all right, all right. I'm sorry, Roaf, I said I was going to pick on you about that.
Well, listen, this has just been unbelievable for me. I'll tell you this, I came into Canton this week, and everyone here who knows me, this section, everyone knows me. You know that I was never a football fan. I wasn't the type of guy to watch football. I could probably count on one hand how many football games I've watched from beginning to end in my lifetime.
Also, another thing about me is I played running back. I'm up here because of how many yards I ran. Everyone who knows me also knows that I hate to run. I don't like to run at all. I box now to stay in shape just because I don't want to run anywhere.
But this has been an incredible road for me. When I'm in situations like this, especially when I'm being honored for something that I've achieved in football, it always makes me feel a little awkward and out of place because I've just never really been able to identify with the love and the passion that a lot of my colleagues and a lot of the other alumni of the Hall of Fame have.
Most of these guys have lived for the game of football and eat, breath, sleep football. I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football. I can remember draft day like it was yesterday. My family and I were sitting around and were watching the draft. The phone rings and it's Bill Parcells. I answer the phone and say “Hello,” and Parcells says, “Curtis, we want to know if you're interested in being a New England Patriot?” I said, “Yes, yes, sir.” And we hang up the phone. As soon as we hang up the phone I turn around to everyone and I said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to play football.”
No, you're laughing, but this is the truth. I turned around and said, “I don't want to play football. I don't even know that I like football enough to try to make a career out of it.” My pastor at the time was a guy by the name of Leroy Joseph, and I'm so glad he was there to talk some sense into me. He says, “Curtis, look at it this way, man.” He said, “Maybe football is just something that God is giving you to do all those wonderful things that you say you want to do for other people.” I tell you, it was like a light bulb came on in my head.
That became my connection with football. I don't know if he wouldn't have said that to me if football would have gotten out of me what it got out of me. I definitely wouldn't be standing here. And ever since he said that, I knew the only way I was going to be successful at this game called football is if I played for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself because I knew that the love for the game just wasn't in my heart.
Let me say this: This weekend, and I'll tell you this, and this is God's honest truth, I came up here. I had a chance to spend time with the older guys and the guys who have been inducted. I had a chance to listen to their experience. On Friday morning, we went and listened to Ralph Wilson speak. Just the passion that he had for this game, being one of the founders, one of the founding fathers of this game, there was something that rubbed off on me, and literally yesterday I felt like it was my first day as a fan of the game of football.
Let me tell you about how I got started playing. So I grew up in a pretty bad neighborhood. But the household that I lived in was even worse. I had a father who I love him dearly and he's passed and gone on, but he was my guy before he died. But when I was 5 years old, I remember watching him torture my mother, I mean, literally. I don't necessarily have notes, so I'm going to bare my soul and just bear with me.
But I remember watching him torture you. He had my mother locked in the bathroom. Had her sitting on the edge of the tub, and he turned on all the hot water and stopped the tub up so that the hot water would eventually flow on her legs. He dared her to move. As the hot water flowed up and started going on her legs and going on her feet and she would flinch a little bit, he would rush into the bathroom, take her hair and burn it with a lighter. He would come back out, watch her some more, she'd move again, and he would go in there with a cigarette and put cigarette burns all over her legs which she still bares to this day. I've seen him beat her up like she was a man. I've seen him throw her down the steps. I've witnessed this woman go to they got a bet on whether I'm going to cry or not. So I'm going to hold it in.
I've watched my mother get punched in the face, have a black eye and then go to work with make up on just to support our family. I've watched this. She did everything to raise me and in hindsight when you're a kid and your mother's tough on you, you don't necessarily understand why. I used to think it was because my dad was so tough on her that it would just naturally make her tough on me.
I heard a saying one time that says, “Hurt people, hurt people.” And my mother was dealing with so much hurt and pain, and I know that she had to take some of that out somewhere. Mom, I'm so grateful that I was there for you to even take some of that pain out on, because you deserved it.
By the time I was 5, my dad was gone. My mother, because we couldn't afford it, she would work two and three jobs. She tied a shoe string around my neck with a key and taught me how to come in the house. I'd come from kindergarten and first grade almost for two years and stay in the house by myself till like 9:30, 10:00 at night, and my mother said it broke her heart every single day walking up those steps. We lived in sort of a low income housing project type environment, and I would always be sitting in that front window because I was scared.
So I was so petrified of being in the house by myself. I didn't even watch "Scooby Doo". I was that scared. The ghosts on "Scooby Doo" scared the heck out of me.
But my mother made a way for me to start staying in between her and my grandmother. When I was 9, my mother, she walks into my grandmother's bedroom and found her murdered. Found her murdered with a knife in her chest, and her neck was broken and everything, eyes wide open, blood everywhere.
And for me as a little kid, all the other family, they come in and you hear the whispers from adults as a little kid, and they affect you a certain way. I just heard everyone saying, “If that happened to me, I would go crazy. I would lose my mind.” For me, crazy was kind of like what my dad was. So in my mind, as a 9 year old, my mother told me the only thing that got her through that was I came up to her and grabbed her hand and said, “Mom, are you going crazy?” And she looked down at me and said, “No. Why do you ask me that?” And I just said, “Well, that's good because if you go crazy, nobody's going to be here to take care of me.” I'm so grateful to my mother. That is the strongest individual that I've ever known, and I appreciate her so much.
If all those things and the story gets better. But just for right now, just entertain me. If that wasn't enough on my mother. When I was 13, her sister, who was like my other mother got killed and died an even worse or more painful death than my grandmother did. Even through that, my mother stayed strong and raised me.
By the time I was 15, growing up in the environment that I was in, I had so many brushes with death. I remember one distinct time a guy had a gun to my head, a loaded gun to my head, pulled the trigger seven times. God's honest truth, the bullet didn't come out. He wasn't pointing the gun at me and pulled the trigger and a bullet came out. I was too young to even recognize that God was saving my life.
You get to by the time I'm in high school. By this time I'm a full-fledged product of my environment. I've done a lot of things that I'm not proud of. But my mother comes to me and she says, “Curt, listen. Your grandmother's gone. My sister's gone. You've had so many brushes with death yourself, I'm just going to tell you this, Curt, I want you to do something after school. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be football, baseball, basketball, join the glee club, join the band, whatever it may be. Just do something so you're not in this neighborhood 24 hours a day, just take up two extra hours of your time.” She said, “Because if something happens to you, they might as well kill me too, because you're the only thing that I'm living for.”
Mom, I thank you so much for the sacrifices that you've made for me.