Was happy to have the opportunity to interview a good friend of mine, former New York Giants captain George Martin. George recently released a book, "Just Around the Bend - My Journey for 9/11" which chronicles his cross-country walk to benefit the first responders of the September 11th attacks. The walk itself generated over $2 million for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and a portion of proceeds from the book is donated to the foundation, as well. Pick up your own copy today, here .
Brandon Steiner: When did you first get the idea to make your 3,003-mile trek across the country?
George Martin: As a child I had wanderlust early on to explore and I have always been a lover for stories of adventure. There is an explorer who lives in each of us and at one point or another we all have complied a “bucket list” of adventures or dreams that we would like to fulfill. For the better part of my life, mine included walking across America. However, my idea for this trek came to me in 2006 while attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction of my teammate Harry Carson. On the day of the induction itself, I embarked upon my customary exercise ritual, but what normally would have been a one-hour, four mile excursion turned out to be anything but normal. As my pre-planned exercise route morphed into something that was largely unchartered because I was enjoying discovering new and unexplored sights, I realized I travelled far beyond my route. Call it a magical epiphany, or a reckoning, or an awaking, or a moment of truth, it was time to fulfill a life’s mission. I was going to embrace my fate, damn the realities, the challenges and the obstacles to walk across the United States. On my long walk back, I began thinking of a deserving charity that would, as a beneficiary, have to be attached to this coming journey. For several years, I, like so many New Yorkers had become frustrated over the refusal of our political leaders to deal with the health care concerns and ongoing treatment of the 9/11 First Responders and Rescue and Recovery Workers. They have heroically served us and they were suffering. They were to be our cause.
BS: Surely you must have met many people along your journey, all with unique stories to tell. Looking back, was there a particularly rewarding experience you had during the walk with someone you encountered?
GM: In Tennessee, we encountered an elderly woman in homespun clothes that portrayed her likely impoverished life. She was a grandmother and when she heard of the Journey said she just had to meet us so her grandchildren could see, up close, just what sacrifice, dedication and devotion is. She turned to me at one point and said I wanted my grandchildren to witness and be a small part of this history. Her humble sincerity stunned me as did her desire to transform the young souls in her care into instruments of good. As we moved to part, she reached into her pocketbook, grabbed a $10 bill and handed it to me. As I refused to take her money, because it seemed wrong to take from her obvious poverty, she assertively cut me right off. She was teaching her grandchildren a valuable lesson, one that was far more valuable than the $10 she was sacrificing. This profound woman wanted to teach her grandchildren kindness and charity and would give from her own poverty in order to do her small part to light a candle and lift the darkness.
BS: What was more physically taxing, an NFL season or your was 9-month cross-country walk?
GM: Nothing compares to an NFL training camp! The Journey across the country was enjoyable. Training camp is sheer misery. During my 3,003 mile odyssey, there was no one attempting to hit me!
BS: Describe the feeling you had your final day walking into San Diego, knowing that you had raised millions of dollars to support rescue and recovery workers from 9/11.
GM: I had mixed emotions on the final day because I was delighted that the journey was coming to a fitting conclusion. However, a large part of me was saddened because an experience of a lifetime was finally over.
BS: Now that you’ve written a book about your experience, what are the top three things a reader should take away from reading it?
BS: In the book’s forward, Bill Parcells says:
I've experienced and witnessed some extraordinary things in my life…Rarely, if ever, though, do you see all of that wrapped into one. But that's really what George's Journey was.
What does that mean to you coming from your former coach and mentor?
GM: Bill Parcells’ comments were a validation that the teachings and life lessons he exposed me to on the playing field, so consistently through my NFL career, I had eventually learned. I hope to pass those on to people I encounter through my journey in life.
BS: In addition to picking up a copy of your book, how can people help rescue and recovery workers from 9/11?
GM: The book is a means to an end as part of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to help support the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The book is appropriate for every age group imaginable. It is a teaching tool for young children, an inspiration to those who find themselves in the middle and finally as validation for those in the fourth quarter of their life. So don’t just buy one copy of the book, buy several and pass them onto friends, family and acquaintances. Or you could donate a copy to your local school or library. That way you, too, can make a difference.
BS: As a past president of the NFLPA and of course all your years of playing, I have to touch on the state of the NFL. The last few months have been a whirlwind. How can the NFL and its players combat their current issues to bring focus back to the field?
GM: In my humble opinion, a tiny fragment of NFL Players have lost pride in the honor and dignity of wearing a NFL uniform. That is something that should be required at all times during their tenure in the NFL. I have also been a staunch and ardent supporter that life skills program and training, which the NFL and NFL Players Association have an abundance, should be required for all players throughout their entire career and beyond.
BS: Thank you, George.