Associated Press HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) _ Curtis Martin's dream of being an NFL owner is closer to becoming a reality.
The league's fourth-leading career rusher, who announced his plans to run from the backfield to the front office when he retired in July, said he's made progress in his bid to run a team.
”It is very possible that I'll be in ownership by next year,” Martin said Wednesday. ”I expect to be in ownership by next year.”
It's uncertain which team he's in talks with, but it's been speculated it is not the New York Jets, with whom he spent nine of his 12 NFL seasons.
”Other than that it's going good, I won't say anything else,” Martin said. ”When it does happen and when everything plays out, I'll be very detailed and we can probably go through the entire process. But to protect those who are involved and the integrity of the whole deal, I'm not going to say too much about it.”
The 34-year-old Martin, who'll be honored by the Jets during a halftime ceremony Sunday against Pittsburgh, believes he's the perfect type of owner for today's NFL.
”I want to become a new image of what a professional athlete is,” Martin said. ”I think presently in sports, you have the whole bravado, bling-bling, and it seems that that's the image that most of us look up to, and I don't know who set that image. I want to be a different image. I want to be an image that's positive for you long-term. … That's one of my true motivations, is to be a different goal to reach versus just having a million homes and a million cars and all the jewelry in the world.”
Martin was considered one of the classiest and toughest athletes to play in New York before he was forced to retire because of a bone-on-bone right knee injury suffered during the 2005 season.
”I still feel my knee,” he said. ”If I'm not doing anything on it, I feel fine and I feel like I can get out there and play on the field, but there's certain things that I do that lets me know that that's just a fantasy. I've been boxing a lot, so there's a lot of twisting and I can feel it during my training.”
Martin spent last season on injured reserve and made the decision to retire official the day before training camp opened, 19 months after his last game.
”The ownership thing has given me the feeling that I've never even left football,” Martin said. ”You know how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? I feel like I'm still that same animal, but I'm just making the transition into a different position.”
During his 11 active seasons, he amassed 14,101 yards rushing, ranking behind only Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269). His 3,518 carries are third on the NFL's career list, and his 90 touchdowns rushing rank tied for 12th with Eric Dickerson. Martin, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was also a versatile offensive weapon, catching 484 passes for 3,329 yards and 10 touchdowns.
”I feel as though all my heart, blood, sweat and tears were left out there on that field, so it's hard for me to regret anything, especially as it concerns football,” he said.
Martin's presence is still felt around the Jets' training facility. Coach Eric Mangini has left Martin's locker untouched, complete with his name plate, pads and uniform hanging as if he's going to come in and suit up again.
”Usually, when you're not here, your name is gone the next hour and your locker's cleared out by the next day,” Martin said. ”I haven't been around too much, but I still see my Sea Breeze and my lotion and everything in my locker. I appreciate little things like that.”
On Sunday, Martin will have at least 50 guests in the stands to watch him be honored at midfield, including his mother, Rochella; Bill Parcells, his coach with the Jets and New England Patriots; and Mark Wittgarner, his high school coach in Pittsburgh.
”It's going to be a good moment for me,” said Martin, who doesn't expect to cry during the ceremony. ”I haven't taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities to celebrate what I've accomplished and I really appreciate the Jets for making this moment available for me.”
When the day was being planned, Martin thought the game against the Steelers would be the perfect backdrop.
”That's where I'm from and playing against the Steelers has always been the most exciting game for me simply because of it being where I'm from,” he said. ”I just thought it was a great fit for the occasion.”
The matchup might not be the best for the Jets, though. New York (1-8) has lost six straight, while Pittsburgh (7-2) has looked solid in winning its last three.
”I just think that this is the year people thought we would have last year, and last year was supposed to be this year,” Martin said. ”Sometimes things get turned around like that. I think the worst thing you can do is abort your game plan. I think Eric is a wonderful coach, a great coach, the coach that was needed for this team at this time.”