The star running back, who played 11 seasons with the Patriots and Jets, 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.
Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter and Bill Parcells were among the finalists who didn't make it.
"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 made it for his consistency and durability, rushing for 14,101 and 90 touchdowns. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons, the first three with New England and the others with the Jets. The 1995 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Martin won the NFL rushing title in 2004 with 1,697 yards.
Doleman and Kennedy were sackmasters from the defensive line — Doleman at end and Kennedy at tackle.
Doleman had 150 1/2 sacks in his 15 seasons, mostly with Minnesota, while making the Pro Bowl eight times. He was fourth on the sacks list when he retired.
"I am totally blown away by this and humbled by it," Doleman said, adding his son, Evan, would present him for induction. "When they call your name, you're absolutely numb."
Kennedy was a force inside, both as a run stopper and in threatening quarterbacks. The 1992 Defensive Player of the Year made eight Pro Bowls, had 58 sacks — an unusually high total for a tackle — and spent his entire 11-season career with Seattle.
Roaf spent one season at right tackle, then the rest of his 13 seasons on the left side, making 11 Pro Bowls. He made the All-Decade team for the 1990s.
Dawson made seven Pro Bowls as the Steelers' center. He replaced a Hall of Famer Mike Webster, and started for Pittsburgh for most of his 13 pro seasons.
Butler also played for the Steelers as a cornerback from 1951-59, picking off 52 passes, which at the time was second most in NFL history. But he was best known for his tackling skills.
"They told me I was good. I didn't know I was good," Butler said. "I never, ever, ever thought I would be here."
Guard Will Shields didn't get in — the only first-year eligible player to make the 15-man finals. Shields started all but one of the 224 games in his 14 seasons in Kansas City.
Bettis also fell short. He retired in 2006 after winning his only Super Bowl with the Steelers. He is the NFL's No. 5 career rusher.
Parcells coached the Giants to Super Bowl titles in the 1987 and 1991 games and also lost the 1997 Super Bowl with New England. He coached the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, too.
Carter is the No. 4 career receiver with 1,101 receptions in 16 seasons with three teams.
Others not voted in were receivers Tim Brown and Andre Reed, defensive end/linebackers Kevin Greene and Charles Haley, defensive back Aeneas Williams, and former 49ers owner Ed DeBartolo Jr.
The other senior finalist, guard Dick Stanfel, was not chosen, either.
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