By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Well, he did it again. Rams wide receiver Kevin Curtis showed up for training camp this season with his hair bleached white as snow.
"I'm not really sure what the logic is behind it," Curtis said. "I did it a couple years ago. I do it every once in a while in the summer. I don't know why.
"My brother's girlfriend did it. One day she was at the house, and I just said, 'Hey, bleach my hair.' She actually got married like three weeks later to my little brother. It took some convincing. She didn't want me with bleached hair in the wedding. I was bored, I guess."
With the regular season just two weeks away, the bleach is growing out.
"I kind of cut a little bit away each time I get a haircut," Curtis said. "Eventually, it'll all be out."
And none too soon, given the amount of ribbing Curtis takes at Rams Park for the bleached look. Some call him Eminem, for the rapper. Old schoolers call him Billy Idol, for the punk rocker.
On the football field, everyone calls him fast. Well, at least everyone who knows his game. Some people, opponents included, are still surprised by his speed.
"I think so," Curtis says. "Last year was my first year to really get out there playing. So no one really knows who I am. . . . So I can surprise people. It's all the better for me."
The Rams drafted the native of Murray, Utah, in the third round out of Utah State in 2003. A broken fibula in his right leg limited him to four games, with four catches, as a rookie.
After a slow start a year ago, Curtis closed with a rush. With Isaac Bruce ailing late in the season, Curtis caught 17 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' final three games, a period encompassing the regular-season finale against the New York Jets and playoff games against Seattle and Atlanta.
"I happened to get in there a little more when Isaac was hurt," Curtis said. "I definitely grew a lot in those last games, especially the postseason.
"Those playoff games, it's a whole different atmosphere. I know that Seattle game, first quarter, I was kind of going blank on a few plays. I kind of had to calm down, settle down. As the game went on, I was able to kind of get back into my game. But that kind of experience helped me so much as a player."
So did his 57-yard touchdown catch the following week in Atlanta. In an otherwise forgettable 47-17 loss to the Falcons, Curtis scored the Rams' first touchdown on a pass from Marc Bulger.
What made that play most memorable was the fact that Curtis was being chased by rookie Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Hall, reported to be the fastest player that year at the NFL Scouting Combine, could not catch Curtis. Hall closed the gap at the end of Curtis' dash only because Curtis slowed a bit as he approached the end zone.
"I've seen it a few times," Curtis said. "I'm kind of upset I slowed down, because he ended up kind of grabbing me at the end. It looks like he caught me."
If Curtis picks up where he left off a year ago, opponents will have trouble catching up with the Rams' passing game. So far this preseason, he has given every indication of doing just that. Going into Monday's game in Detroit, Curtis has seven catches for 142 yards this preseason, including three touchdowns. The last of those three TDs was a 78-yard lightning bolt from rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick last Sunday in San Diego.
After that game, coach Mike Martz raised eyebrows by saying Curtis had developed to the point where he was comparable to star wideouts Bruce and Torry Holt. That may have been a simple case of a coach going too far, but there is no doubt that Curtis has the look of an emerging player. An emerging player who, along with Shaun McDonald and Dane Looker, could give St. Louis the kind of receiving depth it hasn't seen since the Greatest Show on Turf.
"I think we can be active with Kevin," Martz said. "We can put him in all kinds of places."
Including spelling Bruce from time to time.
"Isaac doesn't have to be in there every snap when he gets gassed," Martz said. "If (Curtis) can give him a two-play break in a drive, that helps us to keep Isaac at the highest level that he's always been at."
Curtis appears up to the challenge - physically and mentally.
"Mentally I'm a lot different player," Curtis said. "Coming out of college, I think that's the biggest change in the pros - the mental side of the game. Everyone's so much smarter. Everything's got to be more precise and exact.
"Learning from guys like Isaac and Torry and (wide receivers coach) Henry Ellard and Coach Martz, the knowledge I've gained the last two years in football exceeds probably the knowledge I've had my whole life."