If you don’t read another word of this post simply watch the videos at the bottom of this post. They will give you a new appreciation for what God’s grace can do in a persons’ life.
Long before the New York media frenzy of Tebow-mania existed an all-time great New York Athlete that didn’t receive anywhere near the hype. No, he wasn’t even considered a “mania”: He never had video go viral; His every move in training camp wasn’t being constantly monitored by the press; He didn’t even have a signature post play prayer move. Actually, New York Jets Hall-Of-Fame inducted Running Back Curtis Martin seemed to be the complete opposite these things – preferring instead to live his NFL career somewhat under the media radar.
Fact is – Curtis Martin flat out admits that he wasn’t even a football fan. When then NE Patriots Bill Parcells called him immediately prior to being drafted, Martin wasn’t even sure that he wanted to play football as a career. He was that ambivalent toward the sport.
How is that possible? If he wasn’t passionate about football what could have possibly motivated him to succeed so dynamically at the sport? Because, as he tells it, in that moment of indecision his pastor advised him that “Maybe football is just something that God has given you to do all of those wonderful things that you say you want to do for other people.” That advice immediately became Martin’s motivation to play – and play he did.
In his first year in the NFL he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He rushed for at least 1000 yards for TEN consecutive seasons yards and accumulated the 4th highest total rushing yards behind only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders. He was selected to the Pro-Bowl 5 times and in his tenth year in the NFL he won the NFL rushing title at age 31 (the oldest NFL player ever to do so) with 1697 yards. He was a rock of consistency for both teams that he played for (NE Patriots 95-97, NY Jets 98-05).
All of those statistics may seem impressive but – in my opinion – they pale in comparison to Curtis Martin’s testimony for the Lord. Martin didn’t grow up going to church. He lived in an abusive family where his mother was tortured, he was abused, and circumstances left him neglected. His living conditions were such that he expected that by age 21 he would be dead. He was even held at gunpoint where the perpetrator tried to take Martin’s life – pulling the trigger of a loaded gun seven times. The gun though refused to fire while pointed at Martin, yet fired immediately when pointed away from him. Martin took this as a sign from God and made a deal with God that if God would allow him to live past 21 then he would try to do whatever it is that God wanted him to do.
One doesn’t have to be a trained clinical psychologist to hear in Martin’s words that he has had to go through a lot of reconciliation and healing in his life. It has been a necessity of living up to the promise that he made to God – and understanding that Jesus Christ wants him to be healed. Martin is clear to say profoundly that God has upheld His end of the bargain – and thus Martin plans to uphold his. This is a person who really understands the value of a God who seeks to live in Covenant relationship with His people. And because Martin truly understands this fact, his desire to intently remain steadfast in his commitment to God appears to be unwavering.
So, while it may be the case that the NY Jets gained a Christian exemplar in the off-season this year – we should rightly remember that the Jets have long had one (and probably numerous unsung others) in their midst for years now. For the Christian witness is made up of more than one follower. The Body’s witness proper is a culmination of many faces that reflect Jesus.
As Christians we too might be well served to learn in our Christian walk the lesson that Bill Parcells taught Curtis Martin one day in practice: “There’s a big difference between routine and commitment”, Parcells said. “ Some people just do the same routine over and over again in life. And some people even get better at that same routine over and over in life. But there’s few people that commit to the next level.”
Many times we as Christians continue to live life by our routines and we struggle to be committed to take our humanity in Jesus to the “next level”. Curtis Martin’s testimony serves as a faithful reminder to us of the power of God’s faithful love and care to those who take such commitment seriously.
You can see Curtis Martin’s testimony below.
Curtis Martin’s Entire Speech (no commercials – 28:12)
Or, Broken down into sections via ESPN.
If you are short on time feel free to skip the introduction where Curtis Martin is Welcomed into Pro Football HOF and go right to his testimony.