When Curtis Martin and Cortez Kennedy are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, they will head a class that doesn't have many big names, and they seem to be just fine with that. Also being recognized in Canton, Ohio, will be Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, and Willie Roaf.
Martin, always a quietly great player, is certainly the biggest name in the group, which doesn't have the star power of recent years.
Martin, who played for the New England Patriots and New York Jets during his 11 seasons in the NFL, can brag that he was a five-time Pro Bowler, offensive rookie of the year in 1995, and the rushing champion in 2004. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Martin's 14,101 rushing yards rank him No. 4 among NFL career rushing yards leaders, behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders. That's not bad company.
Maybe even more impressive is that Martin didn't start playing football until his final year in high school, when his mother recommended he pursue the sport years after his grandmother was murdered. Martin has cited his grandmother as inspiration -- and credited his former coach, Bill Parcells -- with helping him to become such a great player. Parcells will speak before Martin takes his place in the Hall of Fame.
"My career would not have been half of what it is if it wasn't for Bill Parcells," Martin told the Boston Globe. "I think he not only taught me how to be a running back, but I think he taught me how to be a professional ... how to be a man."
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With or without the additional star power generally surrounding the enshrinement ceremony, many fans are glad that NFL linemen are finally getting some of the credit they deserve in this Hall of Fame class. Lineman are often overlooked because of their in-the-trenches positions: By design, they do not display the same flash as a quarterback passing or a wide receiver catching a touchdown pass in the final moments of the Super Bowl.
For Cortez Kennedy, the Hall of Fame will be a fitting cap of a career that began when he was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 1990. In the 11 seasons that followed, Kennedy was named to eight Pro Bowls before retiring with the Seattle Seahawks, the same team that originally drafted him, according to CBS Sports. Among his achievements, he was named the NFL's defensive player of the year in his third year.
Even though Kennedy didn't make the playoffs with the Seahawks until 1999, the durable defensive lineman said he was grateful for his time in Seattle.
"I didn't want to go anywhere else. ... They treated me right, and I know some of my teammates that played there, everybody likes to go back to Seattle," Kennedy said.
Kennedy added that making it into the Hall of Fame -- after missing the cut three times in the past -- "is the icing on the cake of my football career."
The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshirement ceremony will air on ESPN and the NFL Network Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT.