- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Hall-of-Fame inductee Curtis Martin was in a grocery store near his Long Island home about a week ago when a fellow shopper approached and asked, “What do you think of Tim Tebow?”
For the record, Martin likes the trade and, unlike outspoken Hall of Famer Joe Namath, this former Jets great believes it will have a positive impact on incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez.
“Tebow will be good for Mark; he’ll bring the best out of him,” Martin told ESPNNewYork.com Saturday, adding that he has been stopped by many Jets fans wanting to know his take on the trade that has everyone buzzing. “Competition is a good thing. No matter who you are, you need competition.”
The Jets have emphasized that it’s not a quarterback competition, that Tebow is the backup, but he will see playing time in a wildcat package – and that has fueled talk of a quarterback controversy.
Martin agreed, saying “it’s hard not to have a controversy with two high-profile guys like Sanchez and Tim Tebow.” But he expressed confidence the team and the two players will manage the distractions.
“I like Tebow,” Martin said. “Certain players have the ability to get things done, and he’s definitely one of those guys. I don’t know how he gets it done, but he finds a way. There’s a mystique about Tim Tebow. Somehow, he gets it done.”
The Jets have been battered with criticism for making the deal. The day after the trade, Namath ripped his former team, calling it a “publicity stunt” and predicting it will undermine Sanchez.
Martin went the other way, saying Sanchez will benefit. He personalized it, recalling his reaction when the Jets used a second-round pick in 2001 to select his heir apparent, LaMont Jordan.
Even though he had six 1,000-yard seasons, Martin, 28 at the time, sensed an immediate competition.
“I thought he probably should’ve had my position because he had more ability,” Martin said. “I told LaMont, ‘You’re bigger, stronger and faster than me, but you’re going to have to work to take my position.’
“I looked at LaMont Jordan as a daily reminder that your time in this game is short lived. He pushed me to become the best I could possibly be. If he was better than me, fine, I would’ve gone someplace else. But he made me a better player and the Jets a better team.”
Martin proceeded to crank out another four 1,000-yard seasons, including the NFL rushing title in 2004. Jordan remained Martin’s understudy until 2005, when he signed with the Oakland Raiders. He never came close to living up to expectations.
Martin said he expects Sanchez to respond favorably to Tebow’s presence, saying, “If you’re a true competitor, there’s only one way to respond.”
In January, Martin said he’d be in favor of the Jets pursuing Peyton Manning. The team expressed cursory interest and wound up signing Sanchez to a contract extension on the same day they were snubbed by Manning.
Like Tebow, Martin is deeply religious.
“I’m a spiritual guy and I always appreciate guys like that,” he said. “He’s a young guy, he stays humble and he’s not afraid to pray. Some guys are known for touchdown dances; Tebow is known for praying on one knee. He has a prayer named after him. To me, that’s a good thing.”