Re-Post: Meet the Hall of Fame Running Back Who Didn’t Like Football


Note: In honor of the start of football season, here’s a post from the early days of this blog.

For a lot of men, fall means football.  Perhaps it’s the memory of their own playing days in Pop Warner leagues, sandlot games or the varsity squad.  Maybe it’s memories of going to games with Dad.  Or maybe it’s the vicarious thrill of watching two teams at the peak of their athleticism battle for supremacy.

Some men are fans of the high school game, uncorrupted so far by money. Others are partial to the unpaid professional college game which combines the opportunity to engage with both the sport and the university fielding the team.  Still others are obsessed with the pro game — installing satellite TV to be able to catch every game, decorating house, car and wardrobe in team logos, and even participating in fantasy leagues.  As intense as some fans are, one would think that the men with the greatest love for the game would be the ones who played it for a living.  In at least one case, it isn’t so.

Nobody loves the game as much as the guys who play it for a living, right?

Nobody loves the game as much as the guys who play it for a living, right?

Meet Curtis Martin

Curtis Martin played ten seasons in the NFL as a running back — first for the New England Patriots, then for the New York Jets.  During his career, he amassed the fourth highest career rushing yards of all time, and in 2012, Curtis Martin was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame.

Why Are We Talking About Football?

What is remarkable about Curtis Martin was that he was never a fan of football at any level.  Growing up without a dad in the house, in a violent Pittsburgh neighborhood (he lost several loved ones to murder), his mother made him choose an extracurricular activity just to keep him away from the danger he faced just by being in the neighborhood.  So Curtis joined the football team for the first time as a high school senior.

That success led to a scholarship which in turn led to a successful college career, which led to his being drafted by the New England Patriots.

In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Martin recounted receiving the phone call from Patriots coach Bill Parcells asking if he’d like to play for the Patriots.  Although he answered yes, he said, he hung up the phone and told his family he really didn’t want to play football.

A Timely Word

That evening, Curtis’s pastor, Leroy Joseph,  was visiting the family.  When he heard Curtis say he didn’t want to play football — that he wasn’t even sure he liked football enough to make it his livelihood — Leroy Joseph took  Curtis aside for a talk.  He asked Curtis if it was possible that football was the means God was using to enable Curtis to help other people.

“That became my connection with football,” he said, “and I don’t know if he wouldn’t have said that to me if football would have gotten out of me what it got out of me.”  He said from then on he understood that his success in the sport would only come from his having a purpose greater than himself and greater than the game.  His desire to help people spurred him to excellence.

In a previous post, I encouraged you to develop passion for the tasks in front of you rather than waiting for a job that enabled you to follow your passion.  Perhaps your day job enables you to finance your passion.  If so, keep that connection clear in your mind so that you excel at both.  Curtis Martin is an example of exactly that strategy.

By the way, you don’t have to love football.  Curtis Martin didn’t — and it landed him in the Hall of Fame.

So how about you? How are you discovering your purpose?  What are you doing to remain motivated? Add your comments below.

h/t Todd Henry and his book “Die Empty” for bringing Curtis Martin’s story to my attention.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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