Former New York Jets running back Curtis Martin’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was “bittersweet” when his mentor, New York Giants coach Bill Parcells, who led the franchise to two championships, didn’t make it.
Also admitted yesterday were Jack Butler, a defensive back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1951-1959; Dermontti Dawson, a center who played for the Steelers from 1988-2000; Chris Doleman, a defensive end and linebacker who played for the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers from 1985-1999; Cortez Kennedy, a defensive tackle who played for the Seattle Seahawks from 1990-2000; and Willie Roaf, an offensive tackle who played for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs from 1993-2005.
Parcells, 70, who coached the Giants to Super Bowl victories after the 1986 and 1999 seasons, was a finalist for the Hall in 2001 and 2002 after he retired as coach of the Jets. At that time, he wasn’t covered by rules that require a coach to be retired for five seasons before being eligible. Yesterday’s election came in his first year of eligibility under that requirement. He drafted Martin in 1995 when he was coaching the New England Patriots.
Martin, during a media conference, said he would have stepped aside if he could have given his spot to Parcells.
“If I did dream about anything, it would have been going into the Hall of Fame with the guy that I feel was responsible for my career being what it had been,” Martin said. “That’s the only somewhat bittersweet moment for me, is that I was really looking forward to either Bill going in or us going in together.”
Martin, 38, was the first New England player to rush for 100 yards in his professional debut. He finished the year as the American Football Conference’s leading rusher with 1,487 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, gaining Rookie of the Year honors as the first of five trips to the Pro Bowl.
He rejoined Parcells with the Jets in 1998, signing a six- year, $36 million contract that brought the Patriots a first- and a third-round draft choice in return.
“He meant so much to my career,” Martin said moments after his election was announced on NFL Network. “He taught me to be a professional and had a lot to do with teaching me to be a man. That man meant everything to my career.”
Martin and another Hall of Fame member, Barry Sanders, became the only running backs to start their careers with 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons. Martin was the team leader in rushing each of his 11 seasons in the NFL. He signed as a restricted free agent with the Jets after his third season and ran for a career-high 1,697 yards in 2004 for his only NFL rushing title, at age 31.
Martin’s career ended with a knee injury in 2005. He left the NFL as the league’s fourth all-time leading rusher, gaining 14,101 yards on 3,518 carries and scoring 90 rushing touchdowns.
“I have never come across a player who has been more dedicated to the team and doing his job,” Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement.
Martin said he wanted Parcells to present him at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Aug. 4.
“There’s God, then there is Parcells, as far as the importance to my career,” Martin said on the media conference call.
‘Done Something Right’
Butler, 84, finished his career with 52 interceptions, returning four for touchdowns. He was All-NFL three times.
“I must have done something right or I wouldn’t be here,” he said on the NFL Network. “I never, ever thought I would be here. When I was a kid I dreamed about going to Canton to the Hall of Fame, but I never believed my dream.”
Dawson, 46, a second-round draft pick by the Steelers in 1988, spent 13 seasons as the team’s center and went to the Pro Bowl seven times. During his career, the Steelers led the NFL in rushing twice. His 170 consecutive games played ranks second in Steelers’ history.
Doleman, 50, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, ended his NFL career with 150 1/2 sacks, fourth all-time, including 21 with the Vikings in 1989.
Kennedy, 43, was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, the third winner from a team with a losing record, registering a career-high 14 sacks 92 tackles for the 2-14 Seahawks.
Roaf, 41, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, was drafted No. 8 by New Orleans in 1993. He played nine years with the Saints before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs after his 2001 season.
The Class of 2012 was announced yesterday in Indianapolis, where the Giants and Patriots will face each other today in the Super Bowl.
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