Football coaches love players like Michael Curtis.
Everyone appreciated his speed, strength, and smarts.
But it was Curtis´ intensity and focus that really stood out.
And the man really loved to hit people.
Mike Curtis passed away this week from complications of Cerebral Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
RIP Mike Curtis, Baltimore Colts pic.twitter.com/uMDHlkUTWe
— Steve Hoagland (@SteveHoagland2) April 20, 2020
After a solid career at Duke University, the Baltimore Colts drafted Curtis as a fullback.
But head coach Don Shula quickly decided he couldn´t waste Curtis on offense.
Curtis became a 4-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker.
He is the only player in NFL history named an All-Pro at middle linebacker(1969) and outside linebacker (1968).
In 1970, Mike Curtis was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
Curtis picked off a career-high 5 interceptions that season.
But none of those are the interception Colts fans think of when it comes to Mike Curtis.
Mike Curtis: Super Bowl Hero
Super Bowl V was historic for several reasons.
It was the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf- the Orange Bowl´s new Poly-turf.
Super Bowl V was also the first post-merger championship of the new 2-conference NFL.
From then on, it would serve as the official NFL Championship game.
Fans anticipating a display of excellent athletic prowess were gravely disappointed by the Cowboys and Colts.
Waking up to the news that Mike Curtis has passed away. As a Super Bowl V and 1968 NFL Champ. and 4x Pro Bowler, "Mad Dog" was a legendary competitor. He played the game with an intensity rarely seen today and the memories remain. RIP James Michael Curtis. #Colts #Seahawks #HTTR pic.twitter.com/8nMyytJtMQ
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) April 20, 2020
Super Bowl V is known as “The Blunder Bowl,” “Blooper Bowl”, or sometimes, the “Stupor Bowl.”
Multiple penalties, officiating mistakes, a missed extra point, and 11 turnovers highlighted the game.
But it was still a nail-biter.
With just over a minute to go, Dallas set up for a potential game-winning drive in a 13-13 game.
After a holding penalty (then 15-yards) pushed Dallas back, Craig Morton dropped back to pass.
His throw went through the hands of Dan Reeves and into Mike Curtis´ arms.
The linebacker returned the pick 13 yards to the Dallas 28 yard line.
Dallas´ Doomsday Defense watched as Jim O´Brien´s game-winning field goal ended the contest.
That´s Not Mike Curtis´ Most Famous Play
Diehard Colts fans remember Curtis´ interception and the victory over Dallas fondly.
It came just two years after the Jets and Joe Namath famously upset the Colts in Super Bowl III.
But there is another play that all NFL fans associate with Curtis.
Curtis already earned his nickname, Mad Dog.
RIP Mike Curtis. DMV-Charm City legend. Academic AA at Duke. Colts. Original Hawk. A very smart guy, who happened to be very dangerous on the field for offenses to deal with. He's not in the Hall of Fame (Baltimore blowing SBIII didn't help anyone's legacy) but he's not far away. pic.twitter.com/noZoZ53MlR
— Sempervive. (@Sempervive) April 20, 2020
But one play justified the moniker above all others.
It happened in a 1971 game against the Miami Dolphins.
That´s when a drunken fan ran onto the field and tried to make off with the game ball.
In a 2016 interview with “Call of Fame”, Curtis recalls how he acted reflexively.
“I tell you what: I didn’t give it any thought. What I didn’t want was our team to be distracted because of something outside of the game. What we needed to do … I was the captain … and I just needed to make sure that we weren’t distracted (by anything) that would affect our game.”
So, Mike Curtis jumped out of the Colts huddle and leveled the fan as he tried to run off.
Accomplishments and Other Mad Dog Facts
As mentioned, Curtis earned two All-Pro selections, played in 4 Pro Bowls, and won a Defensive Player of the Year award.
He was also the Colts MVP in 1974 and took home 3 Player of the Week honors in his career.
Curtis´ call to the Professional Football Hall of Fame eluded him.
Rest in peace, Mike Curtis. One of the game's most legendary non-Hall-of-Famers. Ferocious on the field, a gentleman off the field.
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) April 20, 2020
But the Professional Football Researchers Association named him to their “Hall of Very Good” in 2013.
That same year, the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame inducted Curtis.
He is a member of the Duke University Hall of Fame and their 2000 All-Century team.
Curtis found post-NFL success as a real estate businessman.
He wrote a book about his NFL career titled, “Keep Off My Turf.”
In 2017, Curtis wrote the forward for Ed Benkin´s book, “The First 50 Super Bowls: How Football´s Championships Were Won.”
Mike Curtis left three children and 7 grandchildren.