Curtis Martin leads six Hall enshrinees
INDIANAPOLIS -- Curtis Martin has gone from the mean streets of Pittsburgh to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The star running back with the Patriots and Jets for 11 seasons was one of six players elected Saturday to the shrine. Martin once disliked playing the game, but used it to escape a neighborhood where his grandmother was murdered.
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"When I get awarded something like the Hall of Fame, it's almost foreign to me," said Martin, the NFL's No. 4 career rusher. "This wasn't something I planned on doing. Football is something I did so I didn't end up jailed or dead.
"If you make up your mind to just do the right thing no matter what ... and you stick to it, which I did, this is how things can turn around. I feel as if my life turned around from what it used to be, and I think anyone has a chance."
Martin and four linemen were elected to the hall, along with one senior committee choice. He is joined by Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf, Dermontti Dawson, and senior selection Jack Butler.
"I'm not even close to this position, I actually don't think I'd play more than four or five years without Bill Parcells," Martin said, indicating he will have his former coach present him for induction on Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.
"I'm very, very happy that Curtis got in. He's really deserving," Parcells told ESPNNewYork.com, preferring to keep the focus on Martin and not his own situation.
"He's one of the greatest players I have ever coached," Parcells said.
Martin called it a "bittersweet" moment because his mentor didn't make the cut with him.
"There's God and there's Parcells as far the meaning they've had on my career," Martin said in a conference call with reporters, adding: "If I did dream about anything, it would've been going into Hall of Fame with guy I feel is responsible for my career ... I was looking forward to either Bill going in or us going in together."
A panel of 44 media members voted in the six men.
Martin made it for his consistency and durability, rushing for 14,101 yards and 90 touchdowns. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons, the first three with New England and the others with the Jets. The 1995 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Martin won the NFL rushing title in 2004 with 1,697 yards.
This wasn't something I planned on doing. Football is something I did so I didn't end up jailed or dead.” -- Curtis Martin
reacting to being voted into Hall of Fame
Doleman and Kennedy were sackmasters from the defensive line, Doleman at end and Kennedy at tackle.
Doleman had 150½ sacks in his 15 seasons, mostly with Minnesota, and was one of the prototype agile-yet-powerful pass rushers who dominate the game today. He made the Pro Bowl eight times and was fourth on the sacks list when he retired.
"I am totally blown away by this and humbled by it," Doleman said, adding his son, Evan, would present him for induction. "When they call your name, you're absolutely numb."
Kennedy was a force inside, both as a run stopper and in threatening quarterbacks. The 1992 Defensive Player of the Year made eight Pro Bowls, had 58 sacks -- an unusually high total for a tackle -- and spent his entire 11-season career with Seattle.
He waited by his phone to hear whether he'd made it after a six-year wait, and was happy he had the television on when the announcement was made.
"I thought I was supposed to get a call. I didn't get a call. I had to watch it on TV," Kennedy said.
"I am very excited right now."
Roaf spent one season at right tackle, then the rest of his 13 seasons on the left side, making 11 Pro Bowls. He made the All-Decade team for the 1990s.
"He possessed exceptional physical talent and a great work ethic," said Jim Mora, who coached in New Orleans for 11 seasons. "He was blessed with high quality character and a team-oriented attitude. He was a team leader, always positive, upbeat, and a fun guy to coach and have on the team. Without question Willie was one of my best and favorite players ever."
Dawson made seven Pro Bowls as the Steelers' center, that rare snapper who also could block defensive players one on one. He replaced a Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, and started for Pittsburgh for most of his 13 pro seasons.
"You never know what your career is going to turn out to be," Dawson said. "I knew I had big shoes to fill 'cause it was my first year playing center. I never would have thought I would be in this position after my career."
"It is a great honor and because of being selected today, my phone has blown up."
Butler also played for the Steelers as a cornerback from 1951-59, picking off 52 passes, at the time second most in NFL history. But he was best known for his tackling skills.
"They told me I was good. I didn't know I was good," Butler said. "I never, ever, ever thought I would be here."
Guard Will Shields didn't get in -- the only first-year eligible player to make the 15-man finals. Shields started all but one of the 224 games in his 14 seasons in Kansas City.
Bettis also fell short. He was the 1993 Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Rams who retired in 2006 after winning his only Super Bowl with the Steelers. He is the NFL's No. 5 career rusher.
Carter, who along with Parcells is an NFL analyst for ESPN, is the No. 4 with 1,101 career receptions in 16 seasons with three teams.
The other senior finalist, guard Dick Stanfel, was not chosen, either.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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