The star running back with the Patriots and Jets for 11 seasons was one of six players elected Saturday to the shrine. Martin once disliked playing the game, but used it to escape a neighborhood where his grandmother was murdered.
“When I get awarded something like the Hall of Fame, it’s almost foreign to me,” said Martin, the NFL’s No. 4 career rusher. “This wasn’t something I planned on doing. Football is something I did so I didn’t end up jailed or dead.
“If you make up your mind to just do the right thing no matter what … and you stick to it, which I did, this is how things can turn around. I feel as if my life turned around from what it used to be, and I think anyone has a chance.”
Martin and four linemen were elected to the hall, along with one senior committee choice. He is joined by Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf, Dermontti Dawson, and senior selection Jack Butler.
“I’m not even close to this position, I actually don’t think I’d play more than four or five years without Bill Parcells,” Martin said, indicating he will have his former coach present him for induction on Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.
A panel of 44 media members voted in the six men.
Martin rushed for 14,101 and 90 touchdowns. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons.
Doleman and Kennedy were sackmasters from the defensive line, Doleman at end and Kennedy at tackle.
Doleman had 150½ sacks in his 15 seasons, mostly with the Vikings. He made the Pro Bowl eight times and was fourth on the sacks list when he retired.
“I am totally blown away by this and humbled by it,” said Doleman, who spent two seasons with the Falcons. “When they call your name, you’re absolutely numb.”
Kennedy, the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year made eight Pro Bowls, had 58 sacks for the Seahawks.
Roaf spent one season at right tackle, then the rest of his 13 seasons with the Saints and Chiefs on the left side, making 11 Pro Bowls.
Dawson made seven Pro Bowls as the Steelers’ center.