200 Miles From the Citi

January 31, 2011 9:00 PM

The Case For Curtis

Martin_To_Hall.jpgAs much of a sports fan as I am, one of the hardest things for me to figure out is who should or should not be a Hall of Famer.

If it's not a clear-cut decision, I struggle categorizing players.

A guy like Derek Jeter?  He'll get his 3,000th hit this year and cement his Hall of Fame credentials.  That seems obvious to me.  Bert Blyleven?  Um, OK.  If that's what's been decided.

It all seems so arbitrary and subjective to me.

But with the NFL vote for the 2011 Hall of Fame class coming this weekend, I need to weigh in:

Curtis Martin is a Hall of Famer.

On Saturday the NFL Hall of Fame selection committee will meet to vote on the 15 finalists for the Hall of Fame.

I believe Martin should get the required 80 percent for election.

My favorite Curtis Martin stat is the one I watched religiously until his body gave out in the 2005 season:

He is only the second player in NFL history to begin his career with 10 straight 1,000 yard seasons.  (The other is Barry Sanders.)

I love that stat because it shows how good Martin was right off the bat - not to mention the simple fact that he contributed in the NFL right away - and it shows how consistent he was throughout his career.

Martin retired with 14,101 rushing yards, which is the fourth-most in history (still about 700 yards ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson).  The top 3? Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders.  All Hall of Famers.

Martin's best year was his last full season, when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,697 yards.  In 2005, Martin succumbed to a knee injury that accomplished what so many defenders had trouble doing - it took him down for good.

Martin finished his final season with just 735 yards, ending a consecutive games streak, his streak of 1,000-yard seasons, and his career.

I always admired how matter-of-fact it was for Curtis Martin to score a touchdown.  He'd give the ball to the referee sans celebration, drawing no extra attention to himself.  (I often think of Curtis Martin when I watch Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards make fools of themselves in celebration.)

Curtis Martin retired the same way he succeeded in football - quietly. And like Barry Sanders, he left before his body really started breaking down and his game suffered.  His retirement was a simple announcement, and you got the feeling that it was a battle just for him to make the announcement publicly at all.

Curtis Martin never really got his due, because he never really sought the spotlight.

It's time for the spotlight to find Curtis Martin.

He belongs in the Hall of Fame.
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