Curtis Martin, who retired as a running back for the NY Jets, recently was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame. He finished as the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history. I came across a press release of his story. I was so moved by his attitude and approach to life that I want to reflect on his story.
He grew up in a rough neighborhood in Pittsburgh. His father was an alcoholic, who would beat and torture his mother by setting her hair on fire and pressing burning cigarettes to her legs. Martin in his acceptance remarks said, “My greatest achievement in my life was healing my mother and nurturing my mother.” His mother urged him to play football to stay out of trouble. Even when New England coach Bill Parcells decided to draft him out of Pitt, Martin was not sure he wanted to play football. “I played for a purpose bigger than the game because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart. Parcells became the biggest influence in his life as he followed him to the Jets.
Here is what Parcells said about Martin at his induction. In my opinion, these comments by a tough nosed coach like Bill Parcells are worth its weight in gold. (I must admit that there are tears in my eyes as I type these words) “He has tremendous compassion for his fellow man. He is, I think, the poster child for what the NFL is supposed to be. You come into the league, maximize your abilities, you save your money, you make a smooth transition into society and then you pass all those things on to other people.” These are the words of one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.
Here are a few take -aways for me from the story of Curtis Martin. First, his greatest achievement was accomplished in relationships, not success on the football field. Martin admitted, “love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.” He was thankful for what his mother taught him, so he found his greatest achievement in relation to his mom. Remember men all of your life, I mean all of your life, is based on relationships not your personal success. Don’t ever sacrifice relationships for career. Curtis Martin didn’t forget that fact. Focus and attempt to maintain healthy relationship to the best of your ability, especially within your family.
Secondly, he “played for a purpose bigger than the game.” His pastor told him he could use football as a platform to do greater things. So Curtis Martin was able to keep the game and the great success he had in perspective. What you accomplish in life is meant by God to fulfill his purpose in your life, not what you want to get out of life. Our success is not about ourselves, but about others. Never let personal success be your goal. It can become an idol, that is, will take all your time, talent and resources. Your career or path in life is meant for a greater purpose then yourself.
Thirdly, coach Parcells referred to passing along to others. Curtis Martin used the stage of pro football to “pass on” a perspective on life that could only be accomplished through relationships. It makes me ask the question, “What am I passing on?” I am now in my 71 year. Let me tell you men, that when you get to this age you give more consideration to “who you have been” in the eyes of your family. What are you passing on as you cultivate relationships with those who are closest to you?
Finally, I close with words from the aging Apostle Paul as he wrote to his younger associate Timothy. “You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting – God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.” ( II Tim 4:6-8 – The Message) Paul’s audience was God. He run and finished as best he could, because it was not about himself, but rather about God’s purpose for his life. He saw his life as “an offering on God’s altar.