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Martin's success a matter of mind over muscle

In games that are won mainly with muscle, Curtis Martin distinguished himself with his mind.

The NFL's fourth all-time leading rusher behind only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, Martin was the Thinking Man's Running Back.

He measured every move, whether it was becoming the marquee player to switch franchises in the heated Border War between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, or choosing which holes to hit.

Veterans knew how smart Martin was. Rookies found out in June, at their annual symposium, where Martin was one of the featured speakers.

When one rookie asked Martin for a piece of advice for a long successful career, the Jets running back offered this: Discipline is the bridge between thought and accomplishment, which Martin proved with the discipline he demonstrated in his offseason workouts that led to the accomplishment of five Pro Bowl selections.

Martin also told the rookies: Don't sacrifice what you wish for most for what you wish for now. Martin never sacrificed what he wanted most, which was a reputation as impressive as his career statistics.

And he started building them from the day he took the field. In his very first NFL game in 1995, Martin ran for 102 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Of course, right after the game, then-New England coach Bill Parcells cautioned reporters not to make too much of his running back, challenging Martin by dubbing him "a one-game wonder."

But all these seasons later, it's clear that Martin was not a one-game wonder. He was an 11-year wonder. Soon, New York loses both its great running backs, Tiki Barber and Martin.

New York might never have two backs quite like this again. That, unlike so much Martin did, doesn't require a lot of thought.

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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