How I Became A Jets Fan and Why I Am Thankful I Did
I have been a Jets fan for pretty much as long as I can remember. When I tell people this, the following question is almost always asked: “Are you from New York?”
The answer is always no.
I have lived in North Carolina all of my life. Yet and still, I root for the Jets each Sunday, sometimes to a fault. For example, sometimes I pass up a ticket to see Cam Newton play for the Panthers so I can watch Brian Schottenheimer call 59 pass plays in the most important game of the season on a laptop stream. Eh. It happens.
After explaining to someone where I’m from, the immediate follow-up question asks why I like the Jets. At first, it seems like an obvious answer in my mind. I mean, come on, they’re the Jets! What’s not to like? But when I really think back to how I got to this point, becoming a Jets fan, studying the game and eventually, starting a blog about the team… it is a bit random and rather unique.
Around age 6 or 7, I would constantly play my older brother in a video game called, “NFL Blitz.” He would always beat me. Always.
We would face off time and time again. After each brutal loss, I would switch to a different team and demand a rematch. Finally, after cycling through what must have been most of the teams in the league, I prevailed while playing with the New York Jets.
They’ve been my favorite team ever since.
The three players I was drawn to were Vinny Testaverde, Wayne Chrebet and none other than Curtis “My Favorite” Martin.
Some young sports fans decide their favorite teams by latching onto specific players. In my case, it was Allen Iverson for basketball and Martin for football.
As a little kid, the reason for liking Iverson was simple. Similarly to Iverson, I was always the shortest player on the court. I admired his heart and fearlessness when attacking the basket.
And while Iverson’s heroics on the court and some of his shortcomings off the court were both well documented, the media attention paid to my other favorite athlete was pretty much nonexistent.
In today’s league, a running back’s NFL lifespan seems to get shorter and shorter with each passing year. Most teams rely on not one, but two running backs to get the job done. The Browns were considered to be “reaching” for RB Trent Richardson when they drafted him 3rd overall in this year’s draft. The same Trent Richardson that is regarded by most to be the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson.
I’m not sure exactly what happened to cause the league to transform in this way, all I know is that Martin had a career you will never see duplicated. He was the definition of consistent. Consistently great, that is. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons and ended up 4th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.
Even at a young age I was pretty in tune to how great of a player he was. What I didn’t know, however, was how great of a person he was and still is today.
Martin grew up surrounded by death and violence in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. His father abandoned him and his mother when he was just 5 years old and his grandmother was brutally murdered when he was in the fourth grade.
Despite the personal tragedies suffered early on in his life, Martin attended the highly respected Taylor Allderdice High School and began his football career his junior year.
The rest is history.
Martin’s only concern before beginning his hall of fame career in the NFL was helping as many people as possible along the way.
Martin joined “Flight 5 Live” last Friday and explained exactly what happened next:
“Before they renewed my contract, they came to me and they said, ‘Well, this is the biggest contract that Woody has ever signed since he’s been an owner. Curtis, we just want to know that you still love the game.’
I said, ‘Well, if you’re going to sign me based on my love for the game, I would recommend you not sign me. Sign me based on the fact that I use football and the commitment that I have for football goes so far beyond my love for the game.’ It’s based on my love for people and my love to serve people. The fact that football gives me that vehicle and that stage and once I’m able to reach people, that’s what makes me play with torn ligaments, chipped bones and shoulders that are out of my socket. In my mind, every yard that I gain, every touchdown that I get, it’s just opening up another door for me to reach people.”
The Jets didn’t hesitate to sign the dotted line. Martin, in an attempt fulfill his yearning desire to help people, did the same. He also revealed on the Flight 5 web show that throughout his career, he donated 12-15% of his salary to charity and now that he’s retired, he donates 20-25%.
There is always so much worry and fuss surrounding a player receiving a huge contract from an NFL team. Rightfully so, I guess.
But I can confidently say that no team ever regretted giving Martin a contract. They saw what mentor Bill Parcells saw in him. They saw what many Jets fans saw in him.
They saw what I couldn’t.
I had no idea how remarkable of a person Martin was when I chose him as my favorite player. ESPN didn’t give him much airtime, I was too young to seriously research him on my own and social media wasn’t around to wake me up.
In fact, it was through social media that I discovered what Martin overcame growing up and how involved his is with charity work. It is through social media today that I am able to witness 5 Jets fans start a web show and give an amazing interview to one of the greatest players in Jets’ franchise history.
Social media and some of the great Jets fans using it have my praise for recognizing what a lot of people didn’t in regards to Martin’s tremendous actions off the field.
Looking back, Martin was the perfect role model for a young kid like myself to look up to. He remains someone to truly admire and someone we should all try and replicate on some levels.
I wish I could credit my adolescent subconscious for seeing the great qualities exhibited by Martin off the field, but to be completely honest, it really was just a coincidence.
Thank God I didn’t just so happen to beat my brother with the Dolphins in that video game and more importantly, thank God for people like Curtis Martin.
Side note: I just want to thank everybody for reading and I want to make a couple of quick suggestions. I started writing this just to give an example of how someone outside of the New York area would become a Jets fan. It obviously turned into more, but I would still like to invite everybody to share their first Jets memories and what it was that made you a fan. If you would like to write a full post on it, I would be more than happy to feature it in it’s own post, or if you just want to comment below, that works too. I think it would be interesting to see why some of the Jets fans across the world were drawn to the organization, that’s all.
Also, the show mentioned in the article, “Flight 5,” broadcasts live every Friday at 7:00 p.m. Put simply, the show is nothing short of fantastic. It’s awesome. I highly encourage everyone to give @5NLive a follow for updates about the show and you can visit their website- Here.
You can view their classic Curtis Martin interview in its entirety below: