I mean no disrespect to Jeremy Lin or Tim Tebow. They seem like great guys that I’d love to meet some day. (Please text me back, guys!) They have amazing and encouraging stories that should be shared – as men, athletes, and fellow followers of Christ. But, let me just be honest for a second and say that sometimes, it feels like Linsanity and Tebowmania is too much. It feels gluttonous.
As they still dominate the “sports news” and in the midst of an epic Olympic competition in London with riveting drama and stories in themselves, I wanted to absolutely make sure that my readers, friends, and stalkers take just 10-15 minutes to sit in the story of Curtis Martin. I want to invite you to sit in his story, his courage, his faith in God, his devotion to his mother, wife, and children, his perspective of his career, etc.
This has been one of the most powerful things I’ve read this past year.
If you’re not a hardcore football or sports fan, you will naturally ask:
Who is Curtis Martin?
But if you’re a sports fan, you know. Curtis Martin – on the gridiron football field – was the man. I knew him well
as I often maneuvered to draft him in my Fantasy Football league when I had the time to “play” fantasy sports. He was a former NFL running back that played for the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. His accolades and accomplishments on the field are too many to list but I’ll list a few of them: Over his10 year career, he was a five time Pro Bowl player, scored 100 touchdowns, and rushed for 14,101 yards (4th most in NFL history). He amassed 17,421 combined net yards (10th all time).
In short, he was a stud and it’s clear why he was inducted into the 2012 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his acceptance speech – without any notes or prepared manuscripts – Martin proceeded to “bare my soul.”
I wept. I cried. I prayed. I wept. I was moved. I was convicted. I praised God. I was compelled to examine my own life.
There’s so many things that moved me in his speech including the utter pain and devastation of domestic violence. It is inexcusable, foul, cruel, and other words I shouldn’t publicly write. Yet, there’s a story of profound redemption. I obviously don’t know Curtis or his mother or any of his family members but as I watched his speech, I thanked God for this man, for his mother, and for so many who live with such courage and hope – in the midst of such imperfect, fallen, and broken messes.
There are four things in particular that moved me but I’d encourage you to read the full text of his speech:
Pain and Courage of a Mother
His mother (Rochella Martin) endured some incredibly painful things but as you listen to his story, you learn of his mother’s devotion and commitment.
When I was 5 years old, I remember watching him torture my mother, I mean, literally. I don’t necessarily have notes, so I’m going to bare my soul and just bear with me.
He had my mother locked in the bathroom. Had her sitting on the edge of the tub, and he turned on all the hot water and stopped the tub up so that the hot water would eventually flow on her legs. He dared her to move. As the hot water flowed up and started going on her legs and going on her feet and she would flinch a little bit, he would rush into the bathroom, take her hair and burn it with a lighter. He would come back out, watch her some more, she’d move again, and he would go in there with a cigarette and put cigarette burns all over her legs which she still bears to this day. I’ve seen him beat her up like she was a man. I’ve seen him throw her down the steps.
My mother, because we couldn’t afford it, she would work two and three jobs. She tied a shoe string around my neck with a key and taught me how to come in the house. I’d come from kindergarten and first grade almost for two years and stay in the house by myself till like 9:30, 10:00 at night, and my mother said it broke her heart every single day walking up those steps. We lived in sort of a low income housing project type environment, and I would always be sitting in that front window because I was scared.
His greatest achievement: Forgiveness & Reconciliation.
In 1998, on Father’s Day, Martin and his mother Rochella began a long reconciliation process with his father, Curtis Sr., by renting a new, furnished condominium for his father, who had left the family due to his addictions to cocaine and alcohol. In 1990, Curtis Sr. checked into a veteran’s hospital for two weeks followed by a six month stay at a rehabilitation center and was able to remain sober through his death, due to cancer, in June 2009 at age 58. The family made peace with each other in the final weeks of the elder Martin’s life. [wikipedia]
But I tell you my greatest achievement in my life was helping my mother and nurturing my mother from the bitter, angry, beaten, hurt person that she was, nurturing her to be a healthy to have a healthy mind-set, and to forgive my father for everything that he did to her. That’s my greatest accomplishment.
By the time he died, she was cooking him food every day and taking it to him. And she is so happy right now, and I’m so grateful for her.
Remember this wisdom:
But out of all the things that I’ve achieved, it’s not necessarily what you achieve in life that matters most, but it’s who you become in the process of those achievements that really matters.
Stand up, God
If I could, I really wish that I could ask God to stand up right now, because I tell you this, I’m not living, I’m not breathing, my life is nothing without God. And I’m probably one of the most humbled. I’m so grateful and so appreciative for what God has done in my life.
A Life Defined by How we Lived our Life
At my eulogy, I don’t want my daughter or whoever it may be giving my eulogy to talk about how many yards I gained or touchdowns I scored. I want my daughter to be able to talk about the man that Curtis Martin was. How when she was growing up, she looked for a man who was like her father. That he was a man of integrity, a man of strong character, and a God fearing man. That’s what I want.
Then at the end of the day, she could say, oh yeah, and he was a pretty good football player.
Here’s his acceptance speech video.
If you’re pressed for time, start at 5:40 –