Curtis Martin Conference Call Transcript 2/1/11

February 1, 2011- On Tuesday former New York Jets running back Curtis Martin addressed the media regarding his Pro Football Hall of Fame nomination.  Here is the transcript courtesy of the Jets.

On what he is most proud of when he looks back on his career…

“Well, when I look back over my career, I’m more proud of the things that I’ve done off the field (and) the impact that I’ve had on the locker room (and) on my team as a leader. Those are the things that make me proud as a player because, as we all know in this game, there are so many distractions. There are so many things that can take your focus off the field. There are so many different ways to get in some type of trouble. For me, the thing that I’m most pleased with is to be able to retire with a good name, a name that hopefully can be associated with good character, humility, a leader, a hard worker, someone who endured, those types of intangible things. Those are the things I’d like to be associated with and those are the things I’m most proud of.”

On if he views his Hall of Fame candidacy from other individual awards…

“Well, yes, I do. This is, to me, something that has affected me totally different than other individual accomplishments. I don’t necessarily see this as an individual accomplishment. It takes a lot of hard work from a lot of other people to get to this point. Even you guys in the media, I think that you all play a role. I think this is more of a collective effort. I think that I’ve done what I did on the field. It wasn’t independently. One thing I will say, is that with the Hall of Fame, I didn’t know that I would care about it as much or I didn’t know how I would feel about it, but it’s something that I’m more excited than I have been about any other kind of individual accomplishment. I’m excited about it. For me, just to be mentioned in the last 15, there’s only a few guys who are in this elite group of people. I think it speaks to a career of commitment and dedication beyond the average, so it’s something that I’m really excited about.”

On how special it was to spend most of his career with the Jets…

“The Jets, for me, I look at the entire organization from the owner on down. I had a few years with the Hess family. I really respect that family, especially as owners. I think they did a good job as a team. I also appreciate what Woody Johnson has done with the team. I think he’s created somewhat of a Jet culture, a mentality, an expectation, a standard that we were to carry as players, and the current players do too. I think what he’s accomplished as an owner has trickled down through the front office and on the field to the players. I think that’s why we’re seeing the Jets in the playoffs more often. This is the second year in a row they were in the AFC Championship. I think it speaks to the leadership, which is the Johnson family, and the people and the coaches that he’s put in place to help the team get to where they’re at. I appreciate everything that the Jets organization and everyone involved has done to help me get to this place that I’m in right now.”

On how he will spend Saturday waiting to find out if he has been voted in to the Hall of Fame…

“I’m not sure of that. I’m usually a guy that I know that someone will let me know. They said I would receive a call if I did make it somewhere after 6:00. I’ll probably be home watching TV, doing something simple. I’m not too sure what actually will occur. I’ll definitely be anticipating the answer, whether it’s yes or no.”

On how his health is…

“Number one, there’s no pills (that I have to take). There’s very little pain. I usually only have pain because I still work out pretty vigorously. I’m doing a lot of boxing. With my cardio, I feel like I can come out and play if I had to. I’m sure most of us retired players think we can. I’m in really good shape. I don’t have too much pain. The only time I have pain is in my knee when I go too much. Like the other day, I boxed and I went maybe 17 rounds or so. I think with all the movement and everything, my knee got a little swollen, but it’s fine today.”

On owners saying they need to look at the long-term health of the league when a player’s career may only last two or three years…

“I think as a player it’s hard to have a long-term vision, but you also have to understand that that’s what the owners have to think. They can’t afford to think short-term. I believe in a lot of their decisions. The stance that they’re taking is targeted towards that. The one thing, as a player, that I would try to keep in mind is that the owners, obviously, they want to make more money and hopefully as a player you want to believe that if they’re making more money, that means that the players will eventually make more money. Sometimes that takes a long-term vision. Like you said, a lot of players may not see it that way.”

On if he’s prepared to not make the Hall of Fame…

“I’m totally prepared for that. I’m the type of guy that takes things as they come. For me, it’s been an honor. I don’t say this modestly or anything, but it’s been such an honor for me to accomplish what I accomplished in the NFL. Nothing will take that away from me or that joy of being able to play the years I have and accomplish what I have. Nothing will take that away. I think the Hall of Fame is more of an acknowledgment of what you’ve accomplished. I just think it’s a tremendous honor. If I get in, I’ll be elated. If I don’t, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the voting system or anything. It’s just the way it happens. It’s hard to compare to the Pro Bowl, but sometimes a lot of players feel they should get in. There were certain years I felt I should get in and I didn’t get in. You just take it as it comes. The Hall of Fame is special. If it doesn’t happen for me this year, hopefully (it will happen) some other year.”

On who will present him if he makes the Hall of Fame…

“It’s funny, coming into this league, I remember asking (Bill) Parcells if he really thought that I could play in this league. I think as a rookie, you look at the NFL and you say, ‘That’s on TV.’ The Hall of Fame is a whole other world. This is something that I never really even imagined would happen for me. I never really imagined being in this situation, but I always knew that as the talk began that there was never a question or doubt in my mind who would (present me), and it is Parcells.”

On his emotions knowing that the Hall of Fame is so close…

“I recently just got married. A lot of people, during the engagement period, were asking me how I felt. I said, ‘You know, I feel the same.’ They asked me how I thought I would feel when I got married and I said, ‘I don’t quite know.’ For me, I’ve always been a person who, until it’s done, that’s when I get excited. Until we were coming out of that tunnel going out onto the field to play the game, that’s when all my excitement would kick in. Until I walked down the aisle and got married, that’s when my excitement kicked in. I think this will be very similar. If I am elected, I think on that flight down to Dallas, I think that’s when all of my excitement would kick in.”

On how he views his time with New England…

“You know something, I just spoke to Mr. (Robert) Kraft this morning. He called just to congratulate me on my career. He said, ‘Curtis, when you came here as a rookie, we had a really good chance to get to know one another.’ I used to go over to his house for the Jewish holidays. I remember how his wife made this chicken soup that was my favorite. He just talked about what it meant to him for me to be there and how much he appreciated me as a player and, more importantly, as a person. It meant a lot to me because I’ve always respected the Kraft family and I always respected the Patriots organization. I think the Patriots organization was, I would have to say in my mind, the best foundation that I could have had as an NFL player. Of course, that included Parcells and the team. The relationship that I had with Mr. Kraft, the relationship I had with the head coach, Bill Parcells, and the fact that we were in Foxboro (where) there were few distractions for me coming from the city, that was probably the best foundation. Looking back on it, there is no other team I would have rather spent those first three years with.”

On if he would have stayed with New England if they tried to extend his contract earlier or if he wanted to be with Parcells…

“I’m a very loyal person. I was totally open to staying in New England. I wanted to stay in New England. It’s funny because out of all the teams that I may have had the opportunity to go to, the Jets were one in particular that I didn’t want to go to, but what made me open to it was the fact that Parcells was there. Up until I got the call, I had planned on being a New England Patriot. I never thought I would leave there for my entire career. I had just gotten on a flight and landed in Maui when I got the call from my agent that the New York Jets were interested and I had to get back to possibly sign a contract. I literally was at the mall, straight off the plane and had to go back on the plane and fly all the way back to New York.”

On what the most memorable moment of his career is…

“Let me just start with the most memorable event. For some reason, losing that game in Denver, in the AFC championship, stands out more than anything to me, as far as on the field. That was something that you leave situations like that feeling like it was such a lost opportunity. I felt like that really was our year. I felt like that was the year for me to get a ring and the Jets to win their second Super Bowl. That was almost heartbreaking as far as the game goes. Off the field, what I remember most, is the way the fans treated me (and) the way the media treated me. When I retired, the way they honored me at the Jets stadium (is memorable). I just felt such an appreciation for what the fans and the media have meant to me in New York and I also felt the appreciation from the fans of what I meant to them. Those are my most vivid memories.”

On where being a finalist for the Hall of Fame ranks in his life…

“I think that anytime a person has a career, and at the end of their career, whether you’re in business or football, baseball, whatever it may be, whether you’re on Wall Street, even with singers or actors, if you are elected to the Hall of Fame, that means that you were one of the best ever to do something. The intensity, the focus, the commitment and the passion that you had to have to achieve that, I think you can look back on it and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. That’s how I feel. I feel very grateful for, number one, being blessed with the ability to be in this situation, and then, having all the support.”

On whether he compares himself to anyone else in the Hall of Fame…

“You know something, I’m not. I think the Pro Bowl voting, it kind of gets you out of that type of mindset because you realize that it’s not necessarily statistics that’s going to get you there. Sometimes, there are intangible things or things you have no understanding of why a person votes yea or nay. My mind has not clicked in that direction to say, ‘Well, because this person got in, then I should get in,’ because I don’t think that has anything to do with it.”

On the NFL possibly moving to an 18-game regular season schedule…

“I think that, for a player, it really depends on who you are. I would definitely think if that happens, something must be done with the preseason. I know by the 16th game of the season, you’re almost playing on fumes. You’re playing on sheer will by that 16th game of the season. If they did something with the preseason games, maybe there’s some way where the players can get a little extra rest, but I don’t know how that would work out. (If that happens), then I think it’s doable. Do I think most of the players will be for it? I think there are more (that will not be for it) than there are that will, just because simply it’s a very grueling season. The NFL season is hard. Very few players can make it through an entire season. I think it would be great for the fans. I think it would be great for the game. I just don’t know what the effects would be for the players.”

On whether he would still like to own an NFL team…

“You know something, I really want to do it and I almost did it twice. In hindsight, I think it’s the right decision that I didn’t do those things (and) that I didn’t go forward with the situations that were at hand. It’s something that I’ve learned so much about and it’s been invaluable to me. I feel like I’ve gone back t0 business school, like I’ve gone to Columbia or Harvard and gotten a degree. I’ve learned so much. Now, I think I have much more of a mature thought about it. Being that I’ve gotten everything in place on my side that I need to do it, if the right opportunity comes, I feel very secure about that. More importantly, I understand the importance of it being the right opportunity for me. I don’t think that I went into it with that type of understanding, initially. Now that I have it, there’s not a rush or I’m not anxious about it. I described it previously that, it’s like running the football. I think what makes a running back a good running back versus a fair running back is that you know how to be patient and wait for the right hole and then you just hit that hole. That’s kind of the approach that I’ve taken as far as ownership goes. When that right opportunity comes, when that hole opens up, I’ll know it’s the right one and I’ll hit it.”

On whether he said he has been boxing for 17 rounds…

“Yes.”

On whether the boxing rounds are three minutes long…

“Yes, three-minute rounds. I take two rounds off. I’ll probably go maybe seven rounds, take one round off, do another six or so, take one round off and then finish out. They’re all sparring. I go down to the gym, I’ll get in the ring and the guys there know me. Whoever wants to hop in the ring, I’ll spar with them. Most of the time, I don’t punch back unless I’m sparring with one of the pros.”

On why the Jets were a team he did not want to go to initially…

“Before that, the Jets were just seen as one of the worst teams in the NFL, in my opinion, to be frank about it. I had never heard of the Jets winning. Joe Namath was so far beyond my time. That was back when football, in my mind, first started. I just didn’t think much of the Jets organization. Now, when Parcells went there, in my mind, that was going to be a better organization simply because Parcells was there. Ever since, I never recall the Jets having a 1-15 or a 2-14 season. Ever since then, the organization has turned around. Of course, now it’s my favorite team in the NFL, but things change and my perspective definitely did.”

On whether it hits him that he is only behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders on the all-time rushing list…

“It does. It sincerely humbles me. It brings me back to thinking how my mother forced me to play football just because I grew up in such a horrible neighborhood and she wanted me to spend some more time doing anything. I’m so grateful for my high school football coach, who was my phys ed (physical education) teacher (and) who was begging me play football because of what he watched me do in gym class. I never played. I walked out on the field in my senior year on Wednesday, when they have a scrimmage game on Saturday. I told him I’d play and he said, “Go get this man some equipment.” I put on the equipment and he puts me in as a starting running back. On the first play from scrimmage in the scrimmage game on Saturday, I ran for an 80-yard touchdown. It seems as though it was just like fate. It was just something that I was just gifted to do. It just humbles me that today, I’m in somewhat the same class or even right behind an Emmitt Smith, who I think is great, a Walter Payton, who I think is great (and) a Barry Sanders, who I think is great. Just to be affiliated and mentioned with those types, it’s kind of mind-boggling for me because it was never my plan.”

Closing remarks…

“Guys, I just want to thank you all. As I said in my retirement speech, the media, you guys have been really good to me. I know from a lot of your statements that you all are down there pushing for me to make it into the Hall of Fame. Whether I make it or not, that’s to be seen. I just want you all to know that I really, sincerely appreciate your effort, your time and the attention and coverage that you’ve given me throughout my career. We’ll see what happens Saturday, but regardless, thank you all for the way that you covered me throughout the years. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you.”

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