By Shawn Harrison
Kevin Curtis is living a dream — still.
Playing football and getting paid for it is still hard to believe for the former Utah State All-American. Curtis, a wide receiver with the St. Louis Rams, has spent three years in the NFL.
“Wow, it has gone by fast. I can’t believe it has been three years,” Curtis said. “It has been good. I’m a very happy person, love what I’m doing. It was something I dreamed of as a kid.”
The Utah native was in town for the weekend, participating in some Aggie football alumni events, including a round of golf Saturday. He took some time to sit down with The Herald Journal and talk about life as a professional football player.
It took a while for Curtis to feel comfortable. He didn’t feel like he belonged at first, surrounded by NFL greats like Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk. Curtis has gotten over that.
“I have moments where I think, ‘I have the greatest job in the world,’” Curtis said. “I’ve always loved playing and to be able to keep playing and do it as a career, I feel pretty lucky. Sometimes it doesn’t seem as real, because I don’t watch (NFL games) as much as I did as a kid.”
That’s because the third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft (74th overall) is busy focusing on his job. While he loves the game, Curtis did admit there is a business side to it now. But, he doesn’t have to worry about finishing a paper or preparing for a test like he did in college.
The walk-on at USU set several school records, including his incredible junior year, where he caught 100 passes for 1,531 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led the nation in receptions per game that season.
Now, he focuses all of his attention on football. That means repetition and hours of studying film. All the work is worth it, however, when game day rolls around.
“When it comes to Sunday or Monday — game day — no matter how much you feel it’s a job, you just go play football,” Curtis said. “I have loved playing at all levels, high school, college, you name it. I would definitely rank some of the games I’ve played in the NFL as some of the most fun I’ve ever played in my life.”
Like the playoff games in 2004 against Seattle and Atlanta. He started both games and led the Rams with 11 catches for 235 yards and a TD. Against the Falcons, he caught seven balls for 128 yards, including a 57-yard score. He is just the third Ram receiver to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs.
“We lost at Atlanta, but I felt that was a breakout for me,” Curtis said. “That gave me a lot of confidence that I could play at this level.”
His first year in the league was difficult. A broken fibula caused him to miss the early part of the season, then he tried to come back too soon, Curtis said. He saw action in four games during his rookie year, catching four passes. Curtis called the 2003 season “a wash.”
Despite the fact then-head coach Mike Martz was high on Curtis, his second summer in St. Louis was spent proving he belonged. It was like being a rookie again.
But, he earned a spot and by the middle of the 2004 season started seeing more time. Bruce went down with an injury, giving him an opportunity to play even more. He played in 15 games, catching 32 balls for 421 yards and two scores before his big outburst in the playoffs.
“I was getting more confident, because I was playing more, and the (Rams coaches) were getting more confident in me,” Curtis said. “... They were pleased with how I played.”
That confidence carried over to this past season. Once again Bruce got hurt, and Curtis found himself starting in nine games. He caught 60 passes for 801 yards and six TDs for the season.
No. 83 has certainly established himself. The St. Louis Rams Web site says this about Curtis: “Can be one of the great ones. Great athlete with superb knowledge of game. Has great speed and awareness.”
His three-year contract is up, making him a restricted free agent. St. Louis has his rights for a fourth year, unless a team is willing to give up a first-round draft pick. Seattle had been in discussion with Curtis’ agent, but the former Aggie expects to be in St. Louis this fall. It will become official April 21 at midnight.
For now, he is enjoying the offseason. When the season is over, he takes off for warmer areas. He has a house in Las Vegas and visits family and friends in Utah. While he doesn’t like the cold in Logan, he does make it back to his alma mater now and again.
Vacationing is nice, but he also must stay in shape. That is vital to keep his job.
“They are constantly looking for someone to replace you, they will tell you that,” Curtis said. “They are constantly evaluating you and constantly looking for someone better. It definitely is a business. ... If you don’t come to camp ready to win a spot, you might be out of a job.”
And, that would mean letting down a growing group of fans, especially those who are into fantasy football.
“Fantasy football has gotten huge,” Curtis said. “I hear mostly about it from fans, wherever we go. ... It’s funny to think about, because we are not concerned about fantasy.”
Curtis told a story of how one fan stayed with him during his rookie season, despite him being hurt.
Being in the spotlight is still not easy for Curtis. He began a golf tournament in the St. Louis area last year for a foundation that helps children with hearing disabilities. Part of the tournament was posing for photos and having a big banner with his name on it.
“It was a great event for a good cause, but I hated the idea of being in the spotlight,” Curtis said. “... Any time anyone wants my autograph, I’m pretty flattered by it, just ‘cause I remember as a kid wanting autographs, but I don’t understand what the big deal is scribbling your name on a piece of paper.
“I’m definitely flattered when somebody wants that. I appreciate the fans, that’s what makes our game go.”
As he prepares for his fourth season in the league, he will have to adjust to a new coaching staff. Martz is now with the Detroit Lions.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches in my career,” Curtis said. “... I learned more about football from (Martz), by far, than any coach I have in my life. His knowledge of the game was unbelievable.”
How long does he want to keep playing the game he loves?
“I would like to play as long as I’m healthy and love doing it, but I don’t see myself playing more than 10 years,” Curtis said.
For now, don’t wake him up from this dream.