This post comes to you from our rental car a little east of Cleveland OH. My Father and I are on our way back from one of our greatest moments as Jets fans, Curtis Martin’s induction into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.
To say this weekend was amazing is a complete understatement and I have to put this moment in the same breath as my trips to both recent AFC Championship games.
Hours before Curtis' Speech
I had the opportunity to meet so many great fans, players and friends and frankly I didn’t want the weekend to end. As many were tuned into the green and white scrimmage, I was in Pro Football Heaven on a beautiful Saturday summer day taking in the sites and sounds with cheer utter fandom.
I will have this memory forever, but I wanted to share my tale with you my dedicated reader so here is my story.
The Curtis Martin speech was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible. Thanks to everyone who made tonight special. #jetnation8/4/12 11:43 PM
My Father and I left my house in PA Friday morning and picked up a rental car and to my horror it had Massachusetts plates on it. The car was nice with the exception of people wondering why Jets fans were from MA. I didn’t want people to think I was a Patriots fan so I went looking for my Jets magnets and flags to cover the car in. I didn’t find them so oh well. Is this petty? NOT TO ME. It matters.
We pulled into Canton around 4pm and not five minutes started running into people I knew on twitter. The first person was Tyson Rauch from The JetSetter. Go follow his blog now. Tyson came in with his crew and we later saw each other before the ceremony and had a couple of brews together.
I honestly can’t count on both hands how many times I heard my twitter handle shouted from across a room or outdoors. “E MAN” would be yelled in my direction, my Father would smile, and I would approach the person first asking their twitter handle. This occurred ALL weekend and it didn’t matter where.
It happened on the shuttle to the Hall, in the parking lot in some field in the middle of nowhere, in the Hall of Fame, in the hallway and the breakfast buffet of our hotel, and especially at the beer truck at the festivities before the enshrinement ceremony.
I got to meet fellow blogger @JetsFlightDeck owner Robert A. He came over from Minnesota with his wife and we got to talk about Jets football! Go follow him on twitter and give his blog a read. I have a video I’ll be posting soon with Robert.
Honored to be sitting in the audience for @CurtisMartin28′s Hall of Fame speech last night. Great to meet a portion of #JetsNation too!
8/5/12 6:49 AM
If I missed anyone, I apologize. As always, I’m very humbled that people view me as a celebrity. I’m just like you, a regular person who LOVES the Jets. The only difference is that I have a blog and use my voice. (It’s easy to do, get out there!)
One thing about an event like this is that all the Football celebrities come out to celebrate and intermingle with all the fans. There isn’t a special room that separates us from former players (well, maybe there is one for Joe Namath).
I heard (didn’t have a chance to see) Chad Pennington, Vinny Testeverde and Curtis himself were walking around the campus in and out the tents taking pictures and signing autographs for fans.
Pete Kendell and Jason Fabini
I was at the beer truck and two enormous gentlemen were standing at a table enjoying a brew and I kept looking at them like I knew them. Tyson approached them for a photo and I was soon to follow. After getting my hand engulfed in their handshakes I asked Pete if he was for Curt.
Pete said that both Fabini and Curtis were on the O-line to block for Martin but Pete told me he was flown out by Kortez Kennedy but absolutely was there for Curtis. In fact, during Martin’s speech, he asked all his former teammates to stand up and I saw Kendell standing next to guys like Mawae, Fabini, Moore and Pennington. Goosebumps.
With my boy
Everyone knows Fireman Ed and love him or hate him, I’m telling you right now, if you get the opportunity to hang out with him for just 5 minutes I’m telling you right now, you will leave wanting to run through a wall. I was so fired up listening to him talk it probably was one of the top highlights of my weekend. It’s just what the doctor ordered, spending 40 minutes getting fired up RIGHT before we went into the stadium.
Fireman Ed was there with his wife and he looked like an average fan. He wasn’t wearing his infamous 42 Jersey and I noticed a Mitchell & Ness Bag which I assumed was his Fireman Helmet. (I was right because I asked him to wear it)
After Ed bought US beers, we talked about camp, the Tebow vs. Sanchez media battle and also mostly about how he’s viewed. Many people think he’s not a real fan, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.
He told me about some facts and separated them from fiction about himself:
He is NOT employed by the Jets.
He doesn’t get his seats for free from the Jets.
Yes he was a Dolphins fan as a young man, but that doesn’t diminish his passion for the Jets at all. (Hey I was a Steelers fan as a kid. People can change their mind.)
He DID NOT create the Jets chant.
One great moment of our conversation came when I introduced Ed to my Father.
I told Ed my story that I wanted a Franco Harris Jersey when I was a kid (9), and my Father reluctantly let my mother get it. The Steelers were everywhere in the late 70’s early 80’s and I guess I wanted to be like my friends. He corrected that fast my taking the Jersey and saying, “Enough of this, here wear this… a Freeman McNeil Jersey”.
I told Ed that the reason I’m standing next to you at this moment is because of that man right there.
He took my Father’s hand and looked at me and said “THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT, RIGHT HERE” Ed is the real deal, and if you want to continue to doubt his passion for the team, it’s your prerogative, but I’m telling you right now, he’s LEGIT.
I want to shout out Rob Nacarano ( @nacarano ) for running into Ed and telling him I was there so he would come over.
Kevin Mawae and Brandon Moore
It was brief, but Kevin walked by me at the end of the ceremony exiting the stadium and I went up to him to shake his hand. Wow, he has a grip and my hand immediately disappeared. He looked to be in great shape and probably could still play.
He was walking with Brandon Moore and I didn’t get to shake his hand but gave him a waive and said good luck this season. He smiled and said thanks.
Many Empty Seats in the Stadium
So now let’s get to the speech. They put Curtis on last and there was a reason. Maybe the Hall organizers knew what kind of speech he was going to give or maybe not, but he did not disappoint.
Leading up to the event, Curtis said he would not cry but 5 minutes in, his tale of his childhood and how his mother was tortured broke him down. I’m not going to lie. I’m sitting next to my Father and all these tough fans, and we have tears in our eyes. Seeing his Mother break down on the big screen in conjunction with Curtis breaking down did it for me. I had no idea the details of his story.
The story of Curt getting drafted and his decision to talk to his preacher was what I believe kept him in the game. You have NO IDEA how so many people influence other people.
Curtis didn’t want to play football. After getting drafted by the Patriots he said he thinks he made a mistake. His pastor told him that God is telling him to use football to influence people. What made my trip even more amazing was that on the shuttle back from our car, our crew sat next to him.
Brian (Flight 5) struck up a conversation and then after we got off, we shot a video of an Interview that Brian and Frank conducted (I’ll link to it when it goes up). He confirmed and gave us details of the conversation (s) he had with Curits throughout his career. Again, goosebumps.
I was talking to Frank after the interview as we were walking to our cars that the reason I always wear my Jets attire proudly is for reasons like this. You never know who will strike up a conversation with you about the Jets. The paster saw us wearing Curits and started the conversation and introduced himself to us.
Curtis Martin is more than football. I never met the man, but you can tell by the way he carries himself and echoing what Bill Parcells said in his introduction, Curtis Martin is what football should be about. Players should emulate Martin in every facet of their lives.
The end of the Ceremony
I am honored to have seen one of the greatest football players of all time get the highest honor live. One final time: Goosebumps.
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Erik Manassy is the author of this blog and a self proclaimed “Die Hard” New York Jets fan.