Harvey Martin did not step foot on a football field until his junior year in high school. Having transferred to South Oak Cliff High when it became the first integrated high school in Dallas, Martin only took up the sport because he had overheard his father telling his mother that he was ashamed that Harvey did not play football like the other boys in the neighborhood. His first year passed as you might expect. Harvey was a backup offensive tackle and only got playing time during blow out games. During the spring game before his senior season, Harvey Martin was forced into action on the defensive side of the ball, due to an injury. The switch turned out to be a life changing moment for the young man. His performance that day led to a position change. By the third game of the following season, Harvey was the starting defensive tackle and the top defensive lineman on a South Oak Cliff team that was destined to go places. They swept through the schedule that season, and won the Dallas City Championship. The team advanced to the state quarterfinals before finally tasting defeat. In spite of his stellar senior year, young Martin only received interest from one school; East Texas State, now Texas A&M-Commerce. He was still a skinny, undeveloped kid with limited football experience.
Arriving in Commerce Harvey Martin spent two rather uneventful seasons on the team. During those years, his primary responsibilities were to develop size and strength; while learning to play football. By his senior year Martin had grown into the player the coaching staff thought he could be. That season, he helped East Texas win the NAIA National Championship while earning All-Lone Star Conference and NAIA All America honors for himself. For his performance that year Harvey earned induction into the A&M-Commerce Hall of Fame, a position on the 75th Anniversary Lone Star Conference Team and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Decade for the 1970s. Impressive for someone who basically played on season of football in high school and one more as a collegiate athlete.
Martin's growth as a player caught the eye of the Dallas front office and the Cowboys took a chance on the raw young prospect, making him the teams 3rd round selection in the 1973 NFL draft. Harvey still did not have the size or technique to be a full time player in the NFL. His first two seasons, the Dallas coaches focused on developing an agressive streak in Martin. It was a trait that the young man did not naturally have. During this time he was a situational pass rusher for the Cowboys, but as his body, technique, and agressiveness all came together Harvey earned more time on the field. By 1975, he became the starter at defensive end. Martin had finally developed the firey emotional attitude that the team wanted in him, and he earned the nickname "Too Mean" partly in homage to a teammate, one Ed "Too Tall" Jones. The nickname also accurately described Harvey's playing style to a T, especially his legendary 1977 season. Although official stats were still 5 years in the future, Harvey Martin recorded 23 sacks that season. This mark, though not recognized by the league, exceedes the official 22.5 sacks credited to Michael Strahan, the official single season record. He also recorded 85 tackles that year and was recognized as first team All Pro and as the Defensive Player of the Year. Over the course of his distinguished career Harvey Martin recorded a total of 114 sacks, still the team record. He was also a second team All Pro three times. He along with teammate Randy White, was Co-MVP of Super Bowl XII. Harvey Martin is also a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1970s. Missing from his resume are two honors that are richly deserved. Harvey Martin has not been inducted into either the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. While we can blame an anti-Cowboy bias for the first oversight, there is no reasond he should not be the next inductee into the Ring of Honor.
Likely the reason or excuse that Harvey has not been honored with these two tributes is that he had a checkered off the field history. Not only did martin become associated with professional wrestling, but he also struggled with addiction issues. He went through a series of financial issues resulting in multiple bankruptcies. He also found it impossible to lose the mean streak that the team worked so hard to instill in him. Harvey's criminal records show convictions for both domestic violence and cocaine possession. After paying his debt to society, Harvey Martin was able to turn his life around thanks in part to help from former teammates. Sadly Harvey is no longer with us but due to the help he was able to attain, he spent the last few years of his life clean and sober. A significant portion of that time, he devoted to helping others deal with the demons that had haunted him.
Given the impressive stats that Harvey Martin recorded in a career that was far too short, the multiple All Pro honors he received, and due to the fact that his is both a former Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl MVP; Harvey Martin deserves serious consideration for the two honors that he has yet to receive. His actions in dealing with his off the field issues, and the fact that he confronted and defeated them and then tried to help others do the same should, in my opinion, offset the damage done to his legecy. While we cannot do anything to counter the anti-Cowboy bias, fans and the media that cover the team should keep pressure on Jerry Jones to make Harvey Martin the next inductee into the Ring of Honor.