At Jets and Patriots running back Curtis Martin's Hall of Fame enshrinement speech in 2012, Martin recalled the day he was drafted by the Patriots in the third round.
I can remember draft day like it was yesterday. My family and I were sitting around and were watching the draft. The phone rings and it's Bill Parcells. I answer the phone and say "Hello," and Parcells says, “Curtis, we want to know if you're interested in being a New England Patriot?” I said, “Yes, yes, sir.” And we hang up the phone. As soon as we hang up the phone I turn around to everyone and I said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to play football.”
No, you're laughing, but this is the truth. I turned around and said, “I don't want to play football. I don't even know that I like football enough to try to make a career out of it.” - (via Pro Football Hall of Fame)
But luckily, Martin decided to accept the offer and go forward with it. Not just because he would go on to have one of the greatest careers at the running back position. Not just because he would provide his mother and himself with a much safer, healthier lifestyle and devote a portion of his career earning to charitable causes, though this is an extremely important reason.
But it was also a fortunate decision because Martin had just taken a call from the man who he'd eventually view as the first good male influence in his life.
"...What really made the relationship pretty special was that, for me, until I met Parcells, there wasn't one positive male role model that I had my entire life," Martin said on the latest episode of "The Boardroom: Out of Office," available on RADIO.COM Sports. "There was no male that I ever looked up to or felt like they were a good mentor or example of what I wanted to be when I grew up.
"...I realized that in the environment I was growing up in, I had to learn everything almost in reverse, so, I just had to go in the opposite direction of my father and my uncles and you know people who were around. I knew that was what I didn't want to be, but I had no clear picture of who I really wanted to be."
That is, he had no clear picture until he met Parcells, whose established and respected reputation was something Martin could finally aspire to reach himself. His father had openly abused his mother and abused drugs before leaving the family while Martin was only five years old. With Parcells, it wasn't a fatherly relationship that filled that void — Martin owes that to Dary Stone, who he'd meet later on — but it was an important one that became much more personal as they got to know each other.
"...Back when Parcells was coaching, that was kind of a different era and different type of environment," Martin said. "Parcells didn't want to have any type of friendly situation with the players, you know. He would let you know that he cared about you and appreciate you and all that but he wasn't going to be too close to you.
"That was just his style and I think over a period of time, I began to break that barrier down and he'd begin to share things with me towards the end of my career that were more personal and we began to develop that relationship, and now, ever since I retired, we became like great, great, great friends. He became like my grandfather once I retired."
A moment that proved to Martin that their relationship was different from other coaches and players came when Parcells, a year following his departure from New England to become coach and general manager of the New York Jets, decided to bring Curtis Martin on board. It wasn't exactly an area of need, as Adrian Murrell had rushed for 2,335 yards and 13 touchdowns the two seasons prior — albeit at a rate of 3.9 yards per carry — while there were some other holes to fill, and Martin recalls reporters pressing Parcells on why this was the move he had decided to make.
"Long story short, Parcells told the guy... 'You know, when you've been doing this thing as long as I have, you realize when there's something special... what's special about Curtis is not only will he be our best player, but he'll be our person also and he'll make everyone else in that locker room better,' " Martin said. "And for me, that was the only compliment that I felt like I got from Parcells until I retired, but it was one of the most meaningful ones."
In his first year with the Jets, at age 25, Martin made his third Pro Bowl roster after totaling over 1,600 yards from scrimmage, and his dominance would continue all the way up to his retirement following the 2006 season. To date, Martin is the Jets' all-time leader in yards from scrimmage.
And for all of this success, Martin continues to thank Parcells.
"Definitely not (reach the Hall of Fame),'' Martin said when asked what his career would have looked like he had not crossed paths with Parcells (via Sports Illustrated).
"I don't think I would have made it five years in the NFL without Bill Parcells.''