He re­calls the shout­ing for Uni­tas – and shout­ing at Shula

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - By Mike Klinga­man mike.klinga­man@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikeKlinga­man

A scarred Colts helmet. A Su­per Bowl jer­sey. A foot­ball au­to­graphed by the 1970 NFL cham­pi­ons. These are the trea­sures in Bill Curry’s of­fice.

“Once in a while, I walk in, and look at them, and smile,” said Curry, a Colt from 1967 to 1972. “The best days of my life, in foot­ball, were in Bal­ti­more. But my big­gest keep­sake from my Colts days isn’t an item. It’s the sensation of stand­ing in the end zone in Memo­rial Sta­dium, be­fore a game, with all of those Dun­dalk guys up there [in the stands] go­ing crazy in the world’s largest out­door in­sane asy­lum. “The first guy who’s in­tro­duced is the cen­ter, so I’m paw­ing the dirt, and guys are hold­ing me by the shirt, and the an­nouncer says, ‘And now the of­fen­sive unit for the Bal­ti­more Colts — from Ge­or­gia Tech, No. 50, Bill Curry,’ and I run out to mid­field, and he goes through the rest of the of­fense un­til there are 10 of us in the hud­dle. And that’s nice, but what hap­pens next? He says, ‘From the Univer­sity of Louisville, No. 19 ...’ and that’s the last thing you hear be­cause the deci­bel level is louder than a jet plane. And when that sonofa­gun [quar­ter­back Johnny Uni­tas] runs out and sticks his head in the hud­dle, well, the game is over. The other team doesn’t know it, but it’s over.

“We’re a bunch of grown men out there with tears in our eyes. You’d think it was high school stuff, but that’s the great­est feel­ing in foot­ball that I ever had. And it hap­pened week af­ter week, and year af­ter year. What an amaz­ing time to be in Bal­ti­more; I’d do it again in a heart­beat.”

For Curry, 73, those six years with the Colts trump all other achieve­ments, from win­ning Su­per Bowl I with the Green Bay Pack­ers to run­ning the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, to coach­ing at Alabama, Ge­or­gia Tech, Ken­tucky and Ge­or­gia State. Not a bad re­sume for some­one who was the next-to-last se­lec­tion (279th) in the 1965 NFL draft.

“That’s when Pack­ers coach Vince Lom- Bill Curry bardi turned to his staff and said, ‘We’ve drafted 19 play­ers and it’s 2 a.m. and I’m go­ing to bed. Do some­thing hu­mor­ous with the 20th se­lec­tion,’ ” Curry said.

Two years later, he was se­lected by the New Orleans Saints in the ex­pan­sion draft and then sent to the Colts in a trade for quar­ter­back Gary Cuozzo.

Play­ing for coach Don Shula “meant ev­ery­thing to me,” Curry said, de­spite their rocky start.

“In my first game in 1967, against At­lanta on na­tional TV, I clipped a guy and we had an 80-yard punt re­turn called back. Shula flipped out, ran onto the field, grabbed me by the shoul­ders and cussed me out. So I shouted back at him in the same lan­guage.

“Well, be­fore prac­tice Tues­day morn­ing, I’m think­ing, my one-game Colts ca­reer is through. I found Shula and said, ‘Coach, I apol­o­gize. I didn’t think I clipped, and you came out there, and I lost it.’

“He kind of smiled and said, ‘I kind of liked that. Just don’t clip the guy.’ ”

Half a cen­tury later, Shula’s re­sponse still res­onates with Curry:

“Do you won­der why we played hard for that man?”

A line­backer that sea­son, Curry later moved to cen­ter and an­chored the line of the Colts’ two Su­per Bowl teams (1968 and 1970). Twice named to the Pro Bowl, he was dealt to the Hous­ton Oil­ers in 1973 — one of 26 Colts cast off in the purge of vet­er­ans by gen­eral man­ager Joe Thomas. Curry had been among Thomas’ fiercest crit­ics af­ter the fir­ing of coach Don McCaf­ferty and the bench­ing of Uni­tas.

“If I had my life to live over, I’d keep my mouth shut most of the time,” he said. “I couldn’t have played any harder. That’s my sin­gle re­deem­ing virtue.”

Nowa­days, Curry speaks at lead­er­ship sem­i­nars and lives in At­lanta with his wife, Carolyn. Mar­ried 53 years, they have two chil­dren and seven grand­chil­dren “who see me as a large toy, like a bean­bag,” he said.

“All of those highly touted things, like the Su­per Bowl, are over­rated except for one thing — grand­par­ent­hood. The most won­der­ful part of life is when they hand your baby’s baby to you. Then you want to go about fix­ing the world for them.”

BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Cen­ter Bill Curry, right, with line­backer Den­nis Gaubatz in 1967. Curry called his days with the Colts “an amaz­ing time to be in Bal­ti­more; I’d do it again in a heart­beat.”

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