ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Mike Curtis, an intense, hard-hitting linebacker who led the Baltimore Colts to victory in Super Bowl V and once tackled a drunken fan who ventured onto the field, died Monday in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was 77.
Nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his fearsome hits and reckless abandon on the football field, Curtis died from complications caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Curtis, who was drafted by the Colts in 1965 and played 11 seasons in Baltimore, made the Pro Bowl four times. His interception late in Super Bowl V in Miami set up Jim O’Brien’s game-winning, 32-yard field goal that gave the Colts a 16-13 victory against the Dallas Cowboys.
Curtis had 25 interceptions, forced one fumble and recovered nine fumbles during his career. Known for his ornery disposition during games and even in practice, Curtis’ most famous hit did not involve another player.
On Dec. 11, 1971, at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Curtis knocked down an intoxicated fan who made the mistake of running onto the field and scooping up the football at the line of scrimmage, The Baltimore Sun reported. Curtis came blitzing across the line of scrimmage and sent the fan flying to the ground, as his teammates and the opposing Miami Dolphins watched.
According to The Sun, Curtis’ teammates, Bubba Smith and Bill Curry, were concerned the fan might sue, but Curtis waved them off, explaining he was enforcing a city ordinance.
“The way I see it, he was invading my place of business,” he explained. Video of the incident remains, and Curtis later wrote a book titled, “Keep Off My Turf.”
Curtis also played one season with the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976, becoming the team’s co-captain, and ended his career in his hometown when he played for the Washington Washington Football Team in 1977-1978.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr once said, “If (Dick) Butkus was scary, Curtis was scarier.”
While Butkus, another hard-hitting linebacker, made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Curtis did not, which puzzled his teammates.
“How Mike could be left out is beyond me,” Curry told The Sun. “You really missed the thrill of getting to see a great NFL linebacker if you didn’t get to see him play. … It was like watching a guy with the muscularity of a defensive tackle who could run like a corner. It was incredible to see him run people down. How could he do that? But he did it every day.”
Curtis struggled with memory loss as he grew older, and his family donated his brain to the Brain Injury Research Institute to aid doctors investigating CTE, The Sun reported.
“Rest In Peace, Mike Curtis,” Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted. “One of the game’s most legendary non-Hall of Famers. Ferocious on the field, a gentleman off the field.”
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