By Kathleen Nelson
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Jan. 12 2005

Since Az-Zahir Hakim departed after the 2001 season, the Rams have been on a
mission to find a receiver with the speed and route-running ability to make him
a deep threat.

Kevin Curtis also knows a thing or two about missions, speed and routes, which
make him a good fit.

Curtis caught four passes for a career-high 104 yards in the Rams' 27-20
victory Saturday over the Seattle Seahawks, earning the honor of offensive
player of the game. The week before, Curtis stepped in when Isaac Bruce
suffered a hip injury, catching six passes for 99 yards in the Rams' victory
over the Jets in the regular-season finale.

Rams coach Mike Martz said the ingredients for success in the NFL were apparent
from his first exposure to Curtis, via tapes of his performances at relatively
obscure Utah State.

"You put the tape of Kevin on and the first thing you'd say was 'Wow!'" Martz
said. "He was running by everybody. And then the run after the catch, he was
making guys miss. You had to go back and look at stuff again. I'm not sure I've
ever seen anybody in college that fast. Guys that fast usually don't get in and
out of cuts as well as some of the other guys. But he does."

In just his second season, the speedy Curtis, 26, has taken his time finding
success in the NFL. He played for two years at Snow (Utah) Junior College,
earning scholarship offers from BYU, Hawaii, Eastern Washington and the
University of Kentucky. Instead of jumping at one, though, Curtis put his
football career on hold to serve on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints in 1998 and 1999.

"I guess I kind of felt it was something I had to do," Curtis said. "It was
hard from a football standpoint to pause and turn down scholarships that aren't
going to be there when you get home, but I thought it would be in my best
interest."

His travels took him to London for two years. He packed a football, he said,
but kept it tucked in a corner of his room.

"You represent the church full-time, teaching the gospel and doing community
service," he said. "You get all sorts, no matter where you go. There were many
that were not so receptive and some that were."

He spent what little free time he had on a brief morning workout. On his day
off, he would join in a pickup game of the British version of football with his
fellow missionaries and people they had befriended.

"Part of the reason I considered not going was that I would lose speed and
strength, but it came down to what I thought was right for me," Curtis said.
"When I got home, surprisingly, I actually had increased my speed and
strength."

The Division I scholarships, though, were gone. Curtis had one offer to play at
Idaho State, but chose instead to pay in-state tuition and walk on at Utah
State, which redshirted him in 2000. Only after leading the nation in 2001 in
receptions per game, 9.1, did Curtis earn a scholarship.

His pro career likewise began in fits and starts. He was drafted in 2003, along
with fellow wide receiver Shaun McDonald, just after Ricky Proehl left as a
free agent.

"You have to replace someone like that," Curtis said. "I knew they were looking
for me and Shaun to come on, so right away I felt like there was an opportunity
there."

Curtis was off to a good start until he suffered a broken leg in training camp
last year, limiting him to four catches for 13 yards last year. Offseason
surgery prevented Curtis from working out as much as he liked, which caused
shin splints to flare up and hinder his performance in the first half of the
season.

"Being new to the NFL and trying to find a place, I felt like I was making
progress in the preseason," Curtis said. "It was one of those things, bad
timing. That happens in the game, and it slows your progress. It definitely was
a frustrating year, but I'm glad it's behind me and I'm feeling healthy now."

Curtis' ability to seize the day has created a delightful dilemma for Martz.

"The more opportunities you give him in a game and he excels at, you go out of
your way to get him the ball more," Martz said, "yet not take away some
opportunities from some of these other guys, like Torry and Isaac. It's a nice
problem to have right now."