Many times professional athletes are the biggest fans of the sport that they play. They will freely tell you who their favorite athlete or team was growing up and discuss the history of the game.
However, for some professional athletes, sports are a way out of difficult living situations.
“No, I wasn’t a big sports fan, I liked playing sports, just because I had the natural talent to do it, but it just wasn’t something I wanted to do,” said Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin on CBS Sports Radio’s DA show. “I was kind of forced to play football, I end up getting scholarships everywhere and I didn’t really want to go to college and being okay in college. Then I ended up in the NFL.”
Who forced him to play?
“My mother. I grew up in a horrible neighborhood, so all of my childhood friends were getting killed or in trouble,” said Martin. “A lot of my family members, we found my grandmother murdered, different things like that. So, my mother just wanted me to do something to stay out of the neighborhood.”
The question is, did his mother specifically want him to play football? Or did she just want him to find a way out of the neighborhood?
“Yeah, she didn’t care. What really made me grow into football was the fact that the gym teacher who was the head football coach had begged me for my sophomore and junior year to play,” said Martin. “My senior year is when I really just said ‘alright let me do this to appease my mother and the coach.”
Martin ended up doing more than just appeasing his coach. After graduating from Pittsburgh, he was taken in the 3rd round of the 1995 draft by the New England Patriots. He went on to play 11 years in the league rushing for over 14,000 yards and 90 touchdowns. That career led to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
During his time in the NFL, he grew particularly close to coach Bill Parcells his coach in both New England and New York. Parcells has spoken very highly of his former running back, what is the reason for that?
“I just think that at some point in time, Parcells, in his words, he says he developed a respect for me,” said Martin. “Just because of the way I’ve been, the way I’ve carried myself. He told me that there’s a lot of players who he tries to get to handle their careers and themselves the way I do. He just said that he’s always admired that about me. He told me that me and Lawrence Taylor were two guys that he knew had the talent and he just wanted to get the best out of us. I’m just grateful for him because without him in my life or in my career, I’m not even sitting here talking to you today.”