It’s no secret that one of the people I look up to the most, possibly more than anyone is Curtis Martin. He is a former Jets player who was recently inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Yesterday was his birthday and I have always respected this man. Not just because he was a Jets player, but because he is a man who believes in doing the right thing. He has made over $40 Million and is so incredibly humble. He’s a man that doesn’t hold grudges and wouldn’t want you to hold one. He works to help those that are not as privileged or blessed. He fights a rigorous fight to help the homeless. He is a dedicated man that always worked hard to accomplish goals. His main goal is to inspire more people to be as humble, to help out those in need.
I got to meet him almost two years ago and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was always a Curtis Martin fan. Since my young days as a Jet fan. My introduction to the Jets was about 1995 during terrible years for the Jets. I was just a casual fan who rooted when the game was on and really never gave much thought to what happened after. When Curtis arrived my passion for the Jets that many see today came with him. I became a die hard. I loved watching him play. I wanted to find out more about him. These were in the younger days of the internet so information wasn’t readily available but once it was I would read all about him. I watched sports shows hoping they would mention Curtis and the Jets. I got to see the non-football side of him and all the great and charitable things he was dong. I was ecstatic in 2004 when he beat out Shawn Alexander by one yard to win the rushing title. I was disappointed when his string of consecutive 1,000 yard seasons to start a career came to an end. And down right heart broken when an injury forced him to retire. I knew he was going to the hall of fame and I knew I would have to wait five years but I also knew that when it did happen… I was going.
As I said I got to meet him two years ago. Curtis was elected into the Hall of Fame in January of 2012. From the time they announced his name I started making plans to go. Leading up to the event I had to wait on tickets to go on sale. I wanted as many chances as I could get to see him. I bought tickets to the Jacket presenting dinner. I bought a tickets to a round table luncheon and the enshrinement ceremony. My most prized ticket though was to an autograph session to meet all of the enshrinees and get autographs. When the weekend came I rented a car and hit the road. I drove to canton and went to the dinner it was an awesome ceremony where the enshrinees are presented with their HOF jackets. I didnt have the best view from my seat but it was awesome nonetheless. The next day was the parade and this is when I got my first close up view of Curtis and he noticed me after I gave a huge Jets chant.
He looked Right at me and pumped his fist to my Chant!
After the Parade I went to explore Canton a bit and get ready for the Enshrinement Ceremony. This again was another great experience. While waiting to get in a bus pulls up with many former Hall of Famers and NFL Legends. I saw so many from Gayle Sayers to John Madden. From Shannon Sharpe to Joe Willie Namath. I got to shake a few of their hands and heckle Dan Marino a bit. Then the ceremony started. I sat through and listened to the other enshrinees read off their speeches in what felt was an uncomfortable state for them. After every speech I would get anxious and hope that Curtis was next… But Each time they made us wait. Though during that waiting everytime I got excited and thought Curtis was next I’d stand up and cheer. That apparently caused me to get a few texts and tweets telling me that was just seen nationwide. I ended up being shown on ESPN and NFL Network.
Look Ma! I’m on TV. ESPN
Curtis was last to speak and was that a great decision. His speech was filled with so much. It call came straight from the heart. He told what would have made for an awesome movie. He filled it with humble beginnings, Comedy, Joy, Pain, Loss, gains and life lessons. There were moments that you couldnt help but feel emotional and a deep connection as he bared his soul with intimate details of his father’s abuse of his mother and the murder of his grandmother. You couldnt help but laugh when Curtis he spoke of Bill Parcells’ Parcelisms. We were inspired when he spoke of his near death experiences growing up in Pittsburgh. The speech was truly the greatest enshrinement speech I had ever heard and I sometimes listen to it again to provide inspiration. Anyone who would like to see this speech can see it here.
After the ceremony the guys that I was hanging with for the weekend ran into Curtis’s pastor. He was the one that encouraged Curtis to stay in the NFL and inspired him to use it as a vehicle to do the amazing, wonderful and inspirational things he wanted to do. Curtis took this advice and used football to reach people. His pastor told us the story of the conversation.
The next day was the big day, the day I meet Curtis Martin face to face. I wanted to express to him how much of an inspiration he had been to me and that he accomplished more than just the goal of being inducted into the hall of Fame. I wanted him to know that he accomplished the goal of inspiring someone to be a greater person. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to express this so I wrote him a letter. Before the autograph session there was a round table luncheon. The meal was actually pretty good and my table was pretty close to where the players would be sitting for the discussion. When the discussion had ended the players posed for pic and then headed out to the Hall of Fame for the autograph session.
Dapper as always
After the luncheon I raced down the road to prepare for my meeting. The meeting was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The line was long. But I patiently waited. I got closer and closer and I became more and more nervous. I know I had to capture this moment though. I took several pictures and videos while I traversed the red velvet lined path toward the Hall of Fame players. The inductees were at a long table in row. I stopped at each player and had them autograph HoF book I had picked up earlier in the weekend. I congratulated them and walked on. When I began to approach Curtis I handed my camera to the guy in line ahead of me to take a picture of the moment. I reached out my hand to shake Curtis’s and he grabbed it firmly and shook. I told him how much of an honor it was and how he has inspired me. I then showed him my two jerseys I had brought and asked him which does he think will be better to sign. I could only have him sign one because I only bought one ticket (Which were $300 a piece). He suggested that he could sign the white one and it would show better on that. I handed him the jersey and then pulled out my letter. I explained to him why I wrote it and why he meant so much. He took the letter and thanked me. He then asked for my other jersey and signed the other jersey. I was so humbled by this act. He then handed me the jersey and said he would read my letter as soon as he got back into the car. Before I walked away I shook his hand again and he gave me something that stuck with me. He told me “Keep Pressing!”. It was advice to not give up to keep working hard and not to give up. I keep those two words with me and they empower me when I faced with struggles.
Definitely an amazing moment.
After the meeting I got to tour the hall of fame! I was on a high the entire time. Not only did I meet one of my heroes but I was surrounded by football greatness. So much rich history was in the atmosphere. I was flooded with memories of previous seasons and players. To think of all that played the game, imagine the impact you had to have made to be exclusive enough to make it here. I think I spent a good twenty minutes in the bust room. I spent at least 7-8 at Curtis’s Bust. I wasn’t ready to go. I had to leave though. I had a long drive back home.
The drive that felt like forever coming up felt so short going back. I was still on my high. I thought of all the amazing moments of my weekend and how I would use the two words Curtis left me with to impact my life and others. The first I used it with was to lose weight and get healthier. “Keep Pressing!” When I’m in the gym that would keep me going. I used that to make it through. It helped. I’m 45 lbs lighter than I was in that picture. I use it today to try to make an impact. It’s what gets me to keep giving back and to keep volunteering. Its what gets me to press for societal changes that will make us better. I think we can all benefit from this. I think we can all use motivation to continue to push through trials. So from Curtis Martin through me to all of you I say… KEEP PRESSING!!!
Meeting the Man