Martin entered the NFL in 1995, as a third round draft pick of the New England Patriots. Martin won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and was named to the Pro Bowl. The following year, the Patriots went to Super Bowl XXXI, but lost to the Green Bay Packers. Martin rushed for 42 yards, caught 3 passes for 28 yards, and scored a touchdown in the game. Though he was much less effective in 1996 than he was in his rookie season, Martin was again named to the Pro Bowl squad. 1997 was Martin's last year as a Patriot, as he would sign a Jets offer sheet that went unmatched after the season, and reunite with his mentor Bill Parcells who was already his coach while whith the Patriots. Since then, Martin has missed only five games, in Week 6 of the 1998 season and the last four games of the 2005 season, and earned three more Pro Bowl selections. Martin won the NFL rushing title in the 2004 NFL season with 1,697 yards (one more than runner-up Shaun Alexander, the closest margin in NFL history). He also won the FedEx Ground Player of the Year Award in 2004.
Martin rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first 10 professional seasons, a feat previously accomplished only by the legendary Barry Sanders. On November 6. 2005, he scored his 100th career touchdown, joining an elite group of only 16 players to do so. Martin is currently 4th on the all-time rushing yardage list, and on November 27, 2005, in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints, he became the 4th running back in NFL history, behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders, to pass the 14,000-yard rushing mark. Martin has reached the upper echelons of great NFL running backs relatively quietly, with relatively little media attention for an NFL star of his caliber. His eschewing of the media spotlight is a testament to his reputation as a "team-first" player.Martin attended Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh.
He is often spotted courtside at New York Knicks games and attends shows at New York movie premieres. He made Esquire Magazine's best-dressed list in 2004. In earlier years, he was linked romantically to singer Toni Braxton, an outdated fact he later asked the Jets to remove from his media-guide biography (along with a child to whom he was a godfather, not father). He has been linked recently with Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams, a fellow devout Christian.
In 2005, he failed in his quest to become the first running back in NFL history to start his career with 11 straight 1,000 yard seasons. He missed the December 11th game vs. the Oakland Raiders with a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter, meaning that he missed the final three games of the regular season. Martin finished with 735 rushing yards, giving him a career total of 14,101 rushing yards. It is considered by some fans, that it will be likely that Martin will eventually break the NFL's record for career rushing yards (18,355) held by Emmitt Smith, however many debate this now because of the recent injury he received in the 2005 season, and many also feel Emmitt played at a high level too long for anyone to catch him. It is also speculated (though unlikely) by some that he could break the 20,000 yard rushing mark before he retires. He would be the first player to do so.Recently, Martin was ranked #12 on ESPN's Who's No. 1? show on the 25 most underrated athletes of all-time.