Jets rookie RB Ganaway getting mentored by Hall of Famer Curtis Martin

Terrance Ganaway works out during Jets rookie minicamp Terrance Ganaway works out during Jets rookie minicamp in Florham Park, N.J. (May 4, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Terrance Ganaway emerged from the practice field almost an hour after his teammates, still wearing his pads and jersey.

After every practice, Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn stays behind to offer extra instruction to his inexperienced backfield. But on this particular Friday, Ganaway had opted for a different kind of post-practice session.

"I just wanted to get some balls in, so I went out there and caught with one of the equipment guys," he said quietly.

The rookie running back insisted the exercise was "nothing major," yet it spoke volumes of his drive and desire to one day make a name for himself with the Jets.

Just like Curtis Martin did.

Over dinner two months ago at a New York City restaurant, Martin offered Ganaway tips on how to not only survive the NFL, but how to thrive in it. The mild-mannered rookie out of Baylor hung on every last word, soaking in every last bit of Martin's kindness and advice.

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Martin's message that night was profound in its simplicity.

"Practice hard. Practice like you play. Be smart," Ganaway said, giving the rundown of Martin's keys to making it. "Your body is what makes you go. And sometimes you've just got to fight through things, because you're going to be sore, you're going to be tired. But you've got to know that you want to be the best."

Martin certainly did.

Far and away the greatest running back in Jets history, Martin amassed 14,101 yards -- good for fourth all-time -- and churned out 1,000 yards in 10 of his 11 NFL seasons. He was the consummate professional, the type of athlete who led by example rather than rhetoric.

It was evident through Martin's play that he was an "attention to detail guy," said Ganaway, who grew up in Texas watching the Hall of Famer.

The rookie running back said he's still in the process of getting acclimated to the Jets' offense; familiarizing himself with the schemes, personnel groupings and concepts. Even though he's made strides since OTAs and minicamp, Ganaway -- who has been getting reps at fullback and tailback -- is fully aware that the coaching staff has taken note of his mental errors and unexpected drops in practice.

He's still adjusting to the technical terms, he said, but once he becomes more comfortable with the verbiage, Ganaway expects he'll be able to make smoother, more fluid plays on the field.

For now, though, he's taking things slowly, focusing on the intricate details of his multiple assignments. He admits he has much to learn about the NFL and the Jets, but as he prepares to separate himself from the pack this training camp, the rookie often refers back to Martin's career for guidance.

Martin's 11-year pro career is the ultimate litmus test, the measuring stick for any athlete who seeks to be the quiet leader on the field with a generous heart off of it.

"He was a different back," Ganaway said. "I don't see too many backs like him anymore, that can run inside and can also circle the defense or catch deep balls and catch in the flats and make explosive plays. He's a good back to model after, but it's going to be hard to copycat him. His work ethic would be the biggest thing to copycat.

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"If I do things right and I make the squad and make some plays down the line and sign a good second contract, it'll be nice. But I'd give back. And I think that's what Curtis has been doing to younger generations. Just being a leader, a role model that football and sports needs right now. And I think each of us can take from that and model our behavior after him."

Ganaway, who has spoken to Martin on a couple of occasions, said his relationship with the Hall of Famer didn't end two months ago after their shared meal.

"Whenever I need something," the rookie said, "I know how to get in touch with him."

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