Hall of Famer Curtis Martin to give keynote at annual luncheon


David L. Pokress/Newsday/TNS

Former Pitt running back and Hall of Famer Curtis Martin will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2019 annua Pitt Kickoff Luncheon.

By Brian Gentry, Senior Staff Writer

Curtis Martin may not have kicked the ball as a running back for the Pitt Panthers. But he’ll kick off this year’s football season, serving as the keynote speaker at the 2019 annual Pitt Kickoff Luncheon.

The luncheon, which marks the beginning of the football season and raises money for the athletics program, will take place at The Westin Pittsburgh hotel in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District on Friday, Aug. 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

At last year’s address, that year’s football team captains were announced and Narduzzi outlined his hopes for the season. All three of last year’s captains graduated in the spring, including Dennis Briggs, who served as captain for two years in a row. Louis Riddick, a former Pitt letterman and NFLer and now an ESPN sports commentator, was the keynote speaker.

Pat Narduzzi, Pitt’s football coach, said in a press release he is excited to host Martin at the luncheon.

“He is an absolutely legendary running back, but the most impressive thing about Curtis is how he has impacted the world beyond football,” Narduzzi said. “I can’t wait for our team to meet him and hear his message.”

Martin is a Pittsburgh native and attended Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, where his talent as a running back was noticed by Pitt’s then-football coach Paul Hackett. He joined Pitt’s football team from 1991 through 1994, and during his tenure, he rushed for a total of 2,643 yards, despite being plagued by numerous injuries throughout his career. He became a first-team All-Big East running back in 1993 after rushing for 1,075 yards during that season.

New England drafted him in the third round of the 1995 draft. After three years with the Patriots, Martin joined the New York Jets, where he stayed until his 2006 retirement. At the time of his retirement, he ranked fourth of all running backs in the history of the NFL, amassing 14,101 yards. He played in the Pro Bowl five times and was named an All-Pro twice during his NFL career.

While still in the NFL, Martin founded the Curtis Martin Job Foundation, an organization that seeks to provide financial assistance and hands-on support to families in need as well as people with disabilities and housing providers for people with low income. His organization was awarded the Horizon Award from the Congressional Award Foundation in 2018 as well as an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Tickets can be purchased online. Individual entry is $55, while tables of 10 can be purchased for $600. Tables of nine with a coach can be purchased for $900.