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Heart and Soul
Michael Silver
December 11, 2000
Curtis Martin's commitment to excelling for the Jets is equaled only by his desire to find lasting happiness off the field
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December 11, 2000

Heart And Soul

Curtis Martin's commitment to excelling for the Jets is equaled only by his desire to find lasting happiness off the field

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Last year, after his teammates had voted him the Jets' MVP, he wrote a heartfelt letter to Parcells, who had resigned several days earlier, thanking him and giving him the MVP trophy. Such displays of selflessness are common for Martin, who routinely gives his phone number to cancer-stricken children he befriends while visiting hospitals and turns chance meetings with homeless folk into a poor man's lottery. Brother, can you spare a Benjamin? "Curt would be broke if it weren't for me," says his mother, Rochella, who as a single parent raised her only child in south Pittsburgh, where she still lives. "He will help anybody for anything, and let me tell you, Boy, they all come at him."

Martin says the main reason he plays football "is to light up the face of a sick child or someone less fortunate, for that makes my heart sing. If football were just for the money and the fame, I believe in my heart that I wouldn't play. I go through the pain on the field so that I can somewhat relieve another person's pain off it."

He often stays so late at New York's practice facility watching film that he sneaks dinner from the spread provided for the team's coaches, and he frequently reacts to subpar game performances by volunteering for scout-team duty in practice. His goals for the 2000 season—improving as a blocker and receiver—have been realized. He is third on the Jets with 52 receptions, for 345 yards. If he has a weakness, it's an inability to stay awake in meetings and during film sessions, a condition he blames on viewing plays that he has already studied on his own. "He's got 45-pound weights on his eyelids," says Jets running back Bernie Parmalee. "Yeah," adds fullback Richie Anderson, "and he does a lot of dumbbell curls during meetings. It's crazy—he should be getting plenty of sleep at home, because he doesn't have a love life."

Ah, the cruel twists of fate: Martin, who once cavalierly blew through an assembly line of lovers—many of whom, he says, have since received earnest apologies for his insensitivity—now contends he knows the secret to a woman's heart. Yet here he is, sitting idle on the sidelines. The women he fawns over are Rochella, with whom he has daily phone conversations, and his six-year-old goddaughter, Diamond. Martin calls himself a "loner and an observer," a man who would rather fly solo in the big city than hang out with the guys. He happily takes a table for one at his favorite Chinese restaurant or jazz bar, but if he sees an attractive woman at the dry cleaners or at an art exhibit, he's not afraid to tell her, "I think you're really beautiful."

As he sits in the living room of his spacious apartment in Garden City, N.Y., surrounded by an eclectic array of paintings and artifacts—"Every piece of art in my home is a reflection of a different side of my personality, and this one shows my gentlemanly side," he says, pointing to a Georgia O'Keefe painting of a luscious white rose—the king of romance looks forward to the day he'll find his queen. "You know, I enjoy decorating my home, but all of this stuff has such minute value to me," he says. "I'm a happy man, yet there's something exciting about the prospect of sharing myself with another person without any restrictions. Though sex is an easy thing for a person in my position, it's important that a woman love me spiritually, mentally and emotionally before the physical aspect enters into the equation. What's great is that I'm finally mature enough to have the type of relationship that I really want."

Until then, his heart belongs to the Jets.

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