NEW YORK (AP) - Curtis Martin hopes to run straight from the backfield to the front office.
After retiring from the New York Jets on Thursday as the No. 4 rusher in league history, the 34-year-old Martin revealed he has his sights set on becoming an NFL owner.
"Ever since you have seen me as a player, I've been looking at myself as an owner," Martin said at a small, 45-minute news conference at the team's Manhattan offices, one of several stops on a whirlwind media tour.
"Most people see me as a low-profile player, and I've always seen myself as a high-profile owner," he said.
Martin, regarded as one of the classiest yet toughest players in the game, was hoping to announce specific plans for his life after carrying the football, but hasn't finalized anything yet. He said an announcement is imminent, but declined to reveal which teams he had spoken to or if the Jets were one of them.
"It's something that I'm very excited about, and it looks good," he said, smiling.
Martin never sought the spotlight during his career, a rarity among today's professional star athletes. His humble attitude earned him respect around the league, something he thinks will help him once he's running a team.
"I believe I've gotten a chance to understand the game from the ground up," said Martin, decked out in a sharp black suit and black and purple tie. "It's something that very few owners are able to do, simply because they're not privy to the intimacy of the locker rooms or the brotherhood of the players. I believe that I can bring something new, and something that I think could be better for the NFL overall."
Martin, who is very active in charity work, announced he has partnered with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to start an initiative to decrease homelessness in the city by two-thirds by 2009.
"As a player, Curtis approached philanthropy the same way he approached the game: with humility and grace," Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a statement.
On the field, Martin was one of the league's bright spots for most of his 11 active seasons. He finished with 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 rushing touchdowns rank him tied for 12th with Eric Dickerson. Martin was also a versatile offensive weapon throughout his career, catching 484 passes for 3,329 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"At the end of the day, things turned out better than what I had even intended from the beginning," said Martin, whose retirement papers were submitted to the league office Thursday.
The end was tough, though. Martin, a physical running back who never shied from big hits, acknowledged in January that he had probably played his last game because of a bone-on-bone right knee injury suffered during the 2005 season. He made the long-anticipated decision official - after months of rehabbing and deliberating - 19 months after his last game.
"I don't see this as a sad time," Martin said. "Someone was just asking me if there's any moment in particular that sticks out as the best moment of my career, and I told them, 'Right now."'
"I think that would be great," Martin said with a big smile. "If that were to happen, I would like that."
Martin tore cartilage in his right knee in Week 2 against Miami in 2005, and aggravated the injury two games later against Baltimore. He played through the pain - typical of the toughness he displayed throughout his career - but ended his season after the Jets' 12th game. New York put him on injured reserve last November, ending Martin's season - and ultimately, his career.
"I don't have any regrets," Martin said. "I feel like I'm leaving this game exactly how I would want to. I know that I'm stubborn when it comes to football and I know that it would have to take something like this - and gratefully it's not too bad to where it's going to hinder the rest of my life where I'd need a wheelchair or cane."
Martin grew up in a rough neighborhood in Pittsburgh, but rose above his environment and became a star running back at the University of Pittsburgh. He was drafted in the third round by New England, where he spent his first three NFL seasons and was named the league's offensive rookie of the year in 1995.
He came to the Jets as a restricted free agent in 1998 and became one of the most popular players - possibly second only to Joe Namath - in team history.
"Curtis Martin represents everything an NFL player should be," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He overcame many challenges to enjoy an outstanding career as one of the best running backs in the NFL."
Martin's best year was his last healthy season in 2004, when he led the league with 1,697 yards rushing and tied Sanders' record with 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons to start a career.