In the case of All Pro linebacker and Super Bowl V winner Mike Curtis, stereotypes don’t apply, except for one – a good guy is a good guy.
• Curtis went to Duke, but is more at home on a Wyoming ranch.
• Curtis played 14 seasons in the NFL, but he doesn’t really follow football.
• His granite-hard good looks and toughness could easily grace a football Mt. Rushmore, yet he is soft-spoken and kind.
• A quietly religious man, Curtis knows little about Tim Tebow and he enjoys gambling – especially blackjack.
• He would rather have been a veterinarian than a football player.
And that’s why you do the story.
“I was a 3.8 academic All-America at Duke and got interested in selling property,” Curtis explained. “When I got out of sports, I invested in properties around the Prince George’s County outside D.C.”
Curtis was in Las Vegas last week signing memorabilia as part of his backers’ push to get him in the NFL Hall of Fame. He’s the only player in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl at two different defensive positions – outside and middle linebacker.
But the Hall is really not a priority of his. Mike would just as soon reside on a Wyoming ranch with moose and grizzly bears.
“I get along with all the animals,” he said. “When I’m around all they want to do is lick and play. They are not threatened. Grizzly bears just want to nuzzle.”
Curtis played the game of football like a grizzly. He’s famous for once “laying the wood” to a fan who decided to run onto the football field during a game in 1971.
“I didn’t think anything of it after the hit,” he said. “In fact, we met later and I had a beer with him. He was a nice guy.”
That really explains Mike Curtis. He played football not because of love. Heck, he barely liked it. No, he enjoyed competing and being physical.
“I had no interest in football,” Curtis said. “When I was drafted No. 1 by the Baltimore Colts, I just did what I had to do to be the best. It was outdoors and had physical activity.”
Competing is what drives Curtis, whether it’s in signing memorabilia for hours on end, making money in real estate property or beating the house at blackjack.
“I like to gamble, but it is out of my control,” he said. “When I play blackjack, it’s not for the money. I enjoy the challenge of memorizing the cards. I always sit on the far left of the table so I can see all the cards. And, I’ve done all right.”
Blackjack and an occasional attempt at slots is the extent of Mike’s gambling. He won’t wager on sports.
“I don’t bet on anything because I don’t know the mentality of the team,” he said. “I have no control over injuries, the head coach or the receiver dropping a pass.”
Curtis played 14 seasons in the NFL for the Colts, Redskins and Seahawks. His first was 1965 as a fullback and outside linebacker with Baltimore. Later in his career he moved to middle linebacker. He made the Pro Bowl five times and had the key interception very late in Super Bowl V that led to Jim O’Brien’s game winning field goal in the final seconds.
You would think that was his greatest moment in sports, but again throw away the stereotype. No, the greatest moment was also his lowest – losing Super Bowl III to the New York Jets.
“It was the best moment because of my teammates,” he said. “That’s the best group of guys I’ve ever been associated with along with the most talented. It was also the worst moment, losing to a team we were favored to beat by 18 points. On the field, I was in a state of shock.
“That loss to the Jets detracts from all the successes I might have had in my sports career,” he continued. “We were stronger than the Jets, I could outrun their receivers and was focused. I’ve gotten drunk once in my life and that was after we lost that game.”
Super Bowl III was famous for Joe Namath’s famed “guarantee” that the Jets would win, which paved the way for the NFC/AFC merger and the way pro football looks today.
“Namath was such a mouth,” he recalled. “Nobody liked him, but I got along with him fine. We had a significantly better team. The Colts beat the Jets seven or eight times after that, which meant nothing.”
The Curtis philosophy of life is simple – success through hard work.
“Whether it’s football or business, if I work my butt off better than the other person, I am always going to be better. It just works out that way.”
Contact Mark Mayer at [email protected]