State Your Case: Mike Curtis
Pro Bowler at both middle and outside linebacker
(Published September 2014)
Mike Curtis will be forever remembered for tackling a drunken fan trying to steal the football during a 1971 game between his Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins.
That’s sad, because there were so many more tackles, interceptions, sacks and fumble recoveries by Curtis that provide better feeds for the NFL memory bank.
Like his 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Minnesota in the 1968 playoffs and his late interception of Dallas quarterback Craig Morton that set up the winning field goal in Super Bowl V.
Curtis may have been the most versatile linebacker of his era. Curtis became a full-time starter in 1968 at strongside linebacker for the Colts and was voted first-team All-Pro. With the retirement of incumbent Dennis Gaubatz, Curtis shifted to middle linebacker in 1969 and earned second-team All-Pro acclaim behind Dick Butkus.
When Curtis moved to the expansion Seattle Seahawks for their inaugural season in 1976, he slid over to weakside linebacker and remained there for his final two seasons with Washington. Curtis also served as a team captain of both the Colts and Seahawks.
Curtis was the best player on a Baltimore defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 1968. That sent him to the first of his four Pro Bowls. He was the best player on the entire team in 1970 when the Colts won their first Super Bowl. That earned him the first of his two team MVP honors from the Colts.
Curtis stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in a golden era of linebacking from 1965-75: Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Willie Lanier, Sam Huff, Nick Buoniconti, Bobby Bell, Ted Hendricks, Dave Robinson, Dave Wilcox, Chris Hanburger, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. All are now in the Hall of Fame.
Curtis, however, has never even been discussed as a finalist.
His versatility is bolstered by his productivity. He intercepted 25 passes, sacked 22 quarterbacks (in an era when linebackers did little blitzing), recovered 10 fumbles and scored four touchdowns in his career. And he was feared. When he hit you, he hurt you.
Curtis is now in his 36th year of eligibility. His fate now rests in the hands of the Hall of Fame senior committee. His career deserved a better fate. So did Mike Curtis.