Curtis Martin is one of the best running backs in NFL history. A 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Martin rushed for 14,101 yards and scored 100 touchdowns (90 rushing, 10 receiving). In fact, only three tailbacks – Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders – amassed more rushing yards than Martin.
Especially considering that Martin didn’t really like football.
“I’ve been very verbal how I wasn’t a huge football fan, so I don’t sit there and just watch games,” Martin said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I can’t even say that I really enjoyed playing the game. I was kind of forced to play the game. I grew up in a horrible neighborhood and basically football saved my life, so I’m forever grateful to the NFL and to football and what it’s taught me period. But at the end of the day, it was either football, baseball, basketball or hockey, and I wasn’t going to play any of those, so I walked up on the field and decided to play football.”
Martin, 43, grew up in Homewood, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
“It’s recognized as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country,” Martin said. “There was only one guy in I think maybe 20 years that went to the school there, the high school there.”
Martin’s upbringing may have influenced his style of play: tough, hard-nosed, not a lot of flash, just get the job done.
“It’s definitely a blue-collar town,” Martin said. “For me, I think what had the biggest impact was my goals. No. 1, I understood that football was a lifesaver for me. No. 2, I understood that football was a vehicle so that I could actually do the things that I really liked to do one day when I was finished playing in the NFL. So two things that I’m really into is business and people, from a charitable perspective or from a business perspective. So what I did with my career is I carried myself, I shaped my career, and the things I did or didn’t do was all (with my post-NFL career in mind). I’m very, very grateful for the position that I’m in now.”