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  • Curtis ready for bigger things in St. Louis

    By Len Pasquarelli
    ESPN.com



    Maybe because Kevin Curtis was originally a walk-on at Utah State, where it took two years before coach Mike Dennehy finally granted him a scholarship, the speedy wide receiver never thought much about a career in professional football.

    So when a representative from the sports information office queried him about his career goals in 2000 as part of the standard player questionnaire, Curtis briefly hearkened back to his boyhood ambition in delivering what he assumed would be a forgettable reply.

    Problem is, Curtis' supposed throwaway answer has yet to be thrown away, except by him.

    Five years later, apparently with no one having thought about updating the "personal" section of his biography, the St. Louis Rams media guide still suggests Curtis "hopes to one day become a firefighter." The truth is, though, that the Rams' third-year wide receiver thinks a lot more these days about torching NFL secondaries than about extinguishing house fires.

    "The whole fireman thing, well, it just popped into my head," explained Curtis of the media-guide notation that followed him from college into the NFL. "I mean, here I was, just a walk-on, barely on the team and not much thinking about playing football after college. So 'fireman,' which I think is a really [admirable] job, seemed just as good an answer as any at the time. And somehow, I don't know, it just stuck with me."
    In the final three games of his 2004 season, however, NFL cornerbacks could barely stick with Curtis at all. Which helps explain why, looking to the 2005 season, Curtis, a third-round choice in 2003, figures to be climbing the St. Louis depth chart instead of a four-story extension ladder.

    And why the Rams, who have struggled at the No. 3 wide receiver spot since the quicksilver Az-Zahir Hakim departed as a free agent following the '01 season, might finally have located a viable playmaker to fill that key role.

    In terms of raw numbers, the various successors to Hakim, who averaged 37 catches, 508 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons in the wide-open St. Louis offense, have measured up. In order, Ricky Proehl (2002), Dane Looker (2003) and Shaun McDonald (2004), averaged 42.3 receptions, 485 yards and 3.3 touchdowns over the past three campaigns. But none of the three – McDonald and Looker remain with the Rams, and Proehl is now with Carolina – has the kind of big-play explosiveness Curtis demonstrated at the end of last season.

    In the regular-season finale against the New York Jets, a postseason wild-card victory at Seattle and then a defeat at Atlanta in the division round, Curtis totaled 17 receptions for 335 yards and one score. Curtis had at least one reception of 34 yards or more in each of those contests. In fact, in each of his final four appearances of 2004, he had at least one grab of 30 yards.

    In his final three games of '04, after having never posted more than 67 yards receiving in an NFL game, Curtis put up 99, 107 and 128 yards while averaging a gaudy 19.7 yards per reception. Eight of his 17 catches were for 15 or more yards and 14 produced first downs. And he did it in the crucible of playoff football, posting a pair of 100-yard performances in the postseason without having a century-mark game yet during the regular season.

    That three-game breaking-out party could serve as the springboard for a breakout 2005 campaign, opposition defenders and St. Louis teammates say.

    "I don't mean to be [politically] incorrect or anything," said Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall, "but [Curtis] has to be the fastest white guy in the league. The cat can really run. You put him in an offense like St. Louis has, along with [Torry] Holt and [Isaac] Bruce, and it's like, 'OK, pick your poison,' you know?"

    Said Rams quarterback Marc Bulger: "I think all the guys we have after Torry and Isaac bring something a little different to the table. They can all play. But Kevin, he's definitely got such an explosiveness to him, a suddenness, that he is a big play waiting to happen."

    But for the Rams to consistently get more big plays out of Curtis, rather than just in spurts, he might have to nudge out fellow third-year veteran McDonald for the No. 3 receiver spot. A fourth-round pick in the '03 draft, McDonald actually had better numbers in 2004 (37 catches for 494 yards and three scores) than Curtis (32 receptions, 421 yards, two touchdowns). And McDonald – whose mercurial skittishness is reminiscent of Hakim's inside quickness and ability to add yards after the catch – might actually be better-suited to playing in the slot.


    That said, Curtis possesses unique tools for a No. 3 receiver: superb speed that is rife with long-ball potential. He is probably more effective working on the outside, where the 4.43 speed that seized the attention of scouts at the 2003 combine is better utilized. But if Curtis does line up at flanker or split end on third down, it allows the Rams to slide Bruce into the slot, where he gets to wreak havoc on secondaries while working against single coverage.

    Even if he isn't quite the prototype No. 3 receiver, Curtis' statistics from the 2004 campaign stack up well against the league norm for the position. The No. 3 receivers from the other 31 franchises averaged 28.9 catches last year, three less than Curtis posted. And only nine of the No. 3 wideouts had more receptions than the Rams' young playmaker.

    St. Louis was the only offense in the league to have four wide receivers with at least 30 catches each. Certainly, the presence of Holt and Bruce, both multiple Pro Bowl performers, aided the Rams' young receivers on and off the field. The two veterans are great technicians and superb tutors and role models, Curtis says, and they helped accelerate his learning curve.

    "It's like having a real-life, two-volume encyclopedia on how to play wide receiver, sitting right there in the locker room," said Curtis, who played sparingly as a rookie in 2003 after suffering a broken fibula late in his debut training camp. "They can answer all the questions."

    The three-game stretch at the end of last season answered a lot of questions about Curtis, and it augurs well for him and his future. But just as important to Curtis, who had just four catches for a paltry 14 yards in 2003, the three games provided him with an infusion of confidence that carried over into this spring's offseason workout program.

    In an unintentional nod to his onetime career aspiration, Curtis said he's pretty "fired up" about what lies ahead.

    "This league is all about proving yourself," Curtis allowed. "Proving yourself to your teammates, to the [opposition] and to yourself. Probably in the first two of those cases, I took a pretty good step last year, sure, but I understand that three games doesn't exactly make a career. So probably the person I most proved something to with those games was me, because I feel so much more comfortable now, much more confident. You play this game best when you're sure of yourself, and when it's second nature, when people trust you and you trust yourself. And right now, I think, I'm at that point."

  • #2
    Re: Curtis ready for bigger things in St. Louis

    Great article on curtis. You have to love dangelo halls line "He has got to be the fastest white guy in the league" god forbid someone made that type of comment in the other racial direction.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Curtis ready for bigger things in St. Louis

      Originally posted by general counsel
      Great article on curtis. You have to love dangelo halls line "He has got to be the fastest white guy in the league" god forbid someone made that type of comment in the other racial direction.

      ramming speed to all

      general counsel
      You gotta like this kid. Very intelligent, hard worker, and a team player. Everyone gave the Rams grief after it came out that he was 2nd on their WR board in the '03 draft (most other teams had him between 10-15). A handful of good seasons will bring a little credence to the Ram draftniks in Earth City.

      To GC: You're right about the comment, my friend...another sign of the PC world we live in.
      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      Comment

      Related Topics

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      • RamWraith
        Curtis enjoying NFL
        by RamWraith
        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...
        -04-09-2006, 12:57 PM
      • Nick
        Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous - Wagoner
        by Nick
        Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous
        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        Ever since the 1999 Rams emerged on the scene as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” they have been known for their two outstanding receivers.

        The combination of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt might be one of the best the league has ever seen over a five-year span, but the dynamic duo might be on its way to becoming the NFL’s most explosive barbershop quartet.

        Ask anyone around Rams Park these days the biggest reason for optimism heading into this season and the answer will invariably involve the myriad possibilities of the offense. Those possibilities might not be so endless were it not for the emergence and development of the perfect compliments to the St. Louis version of Batman and Robin.

        Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald didn’t just arrive on the scene last season; they ran through it like world-class sprinters hopped up on Red Bull. Ask the Seattle Seahawks what they remember about their first meeting with the Rams last season and Nos. 83 and 84 will probably be mentioned followed by a slew of words that aren’t suitable for print.

        “I am real excited about the receivers, Kevin (Curtis), (Shaun) McDonald, everybody,” coach Mike Martz said. “It brings back a lot of memories from some of the guys we had in the past. They are just playing now. That’s when it’s fun is when you can come out here and do something and they know exactly what to do. You just start moving guys around in stuff we haven’t done in a while. You give them some creativity in their shifts and their moves and they are just like robots. They line up in man to man coverage and have different ways on a particular route to beat a guy.”

        In fact, the memories came rushing back to Martz so quickly that he goofed up on one of the opening days of training camp, asking “Trent” to take the team out of the huddle. Of course, by Trent he was referring to Trent Green, but he was actually talking to quarterback Marc Bulger.

        Excuse Martz if he is having flashbacks to the days when Az-zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl flanked Bruce and Holt in catching passes from an accurate quarterback with a quick release. Substitute Curtis and McDonald for Hakim and Proehl and Bulger for Green and the ingredients are in place for an offensive tour de force in St. Louis.

        The Rams spent the better part of a year waiting for Curtis and McDonald to get with the system. Unfortunately, both suffered through miserable, injury-plagued rookie seasons.

        Curtis played in four games in 2003, missing the first five games of the season with a broken fibula. McDonald played in eight games, but suffered a thumb injury that kept him out for four weeks. Those injuries didn’t necessarily keep Curtis and McDonald out for the whole season, but they might as well have.

        The injuries even slowed down Curtis and McDonald...
        -08-18-2005, 01:59 PM
      • HUbison
        Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous
        by HUbison
        Curtis, McDonald Make Rams More Dangerous

        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        Ever since the 1999 Rams emerged on the scene as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” they have been known for their two outstanding receivers.

        The combination of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt might be one of the best the league has ever seen over a five-year span, but the dynamic duo might be on its way to becoming the NFL’s most explosive barbershop quartet.

        Ask anyone around Rams Park these days the biggest reason for optimism heading into this season and the answer will invariably involve the myriad possibilities of the offense. Those possibilities might not be so endless were it not for the emergence and development of the perfect compliments to the St. Louis version of Batman and Robin.

        Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald didn’t just arrive on the scene last season; they ran through it like world-class sprinters hopped up on Red Bull. Ask the Seattle Seahawks what they remember about their first meeting with the Rams last season and Nos. 83 and 84 will probably be mentioned followed by a slew of words that aren’t suitable for print.

        “I am real excited about the receivers, Kevin (Curtis), (Shaun) McDonald, everybody,” coach Mike Martz said. “It brings back a lot of memories from some of the guys we had in the past. They are just playing now. That’s when it’s fun is when you can come out here and do something and they know exactly what to do. You just start moving guys around in stuff we haven’t done in a while. You give them some creativity in their shifts and their moves and they are just like robots. They line up in man to man coverage and have different ways on a particular route to beat a guy.”

        In fact, the memories came rushing back to Martz so quickly that he goofed up on one of the opening days of training camp, asking “Trent” to take the team out of the huddle. Of course, by Trent he was referring to Trent Green, but he was actually talking to quarterback Marc Bulger.

        Excuse Martz if he is having flashbacks to the days when Az-zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl flanked Bruce and Holt in catching passes from an accurate quarterback with a quick release. Substitute Curtis and McDonald for Hakim and Proehl and Bulger for Green and the ingredients are in place for an offensive tour de force in St. Louis.

        The Rams spent the better part of a year waiting for Curtis and McDonald to get with the system. Unfortunately, both suffered through miserable, injury-plagued rookie seasons.

        Curtis played in four games in 2003, missing the first five games of the season with a broken fibula. McDonald played in eight games, but suffered a thumb injury that kept him out for four weeks. Those injuries didn’t necessarily keep Curtis and McDonald out for the whole season, but they might as well have.

        The injuries even slowed down Curtis...
        -08-02-2005, 10:00 AM
      • RamWraith
        Curtis Emerging Quickly
        by RamWraith
        Tuesday, November 15, 2005

        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        It wasn't Jose Fuentes' fault that he didn't know who Kevin Curtis was when Curtis' sister mentioned to the Utah State quarterback that her brother was his teammate.

        Sure, it might be out of the ordinary for a quarterback to be unfamiliar with a teammate, particularly a teammate playing a position (wide receiver) that requires a good rapport with the quarterback.

        But Fuentes' familiarity or lack thereof with Curtis wasn't much different than what Curtis has grown accustomed to for most of his life. The list of those who couldn't pick Curtis out of a lineup is probably long enough to stretch from South Jordan, Utah to, say, London.

        By now, Curtis is used to the lack of recognition and he is fine with that. After all, he never gave much thought to one day playing in the NFL so his status as the Rams' third receiver is fine by him.

        "I think when you play that walk-on kind of underdog role you probably do catch people off guard," Curtis said. "They might not be expecting much from you. It's not like I am trying to go out there to prove anything to anyone, but it's a matter of playing football and being a competitor. I just want to be a competitor and win. That's what I love most about playing the game."

        Of course, Curtis' ability to fly under the radar is rapidly disappearing. Now in his third season in St. Louis, Curtis has embraced a larger role because of a toe injury to Isaac Bruce.

        At nearly every stage of his life, Curtis has found a way to eventually earn his due recognition and this year is no different for the Rams' breakout star.

        Splitting Wide

        Curtis' football playing days started like any normal kid's would. His mother wouldn't let him play until he was mature enough to take the physical punishment that goes with playing the game.

        It didn't take long for Curtis' Pop Warner coach to see what the undersized Curtis' biggest gift was. Curtis played quarterback in his youth football days, but not in the traditional sense of the position.

        Essentially Curtis was a running back playing quarterback. He would take the snap, look for a hole and run as fast as he could until he got into the end zone. Curtis enjoyed that position well enough, but his speed would clearly be better utilized at Bingham High in a different capacity.

        Curtis moved to receiver when he entered high school, but he made what little reputation he had as a defensive back, playing cornerback and free safety. Curtis estimated that he probably caught about 10 passes in his entire high school career, so the thought of moving on to college was not going to be easy.

        Although Curtis had displayed some talent defensively and had speed to burn, he didn't draw much attention. It seemed to Curtis that...
        -11-16-2005, 05:35 AM
      • RamWraith
        Backups boost passing game
        by RamWraith
        By Bill Coats
        ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
        09/15/2005

        As he soared for Marc Bulger's second-quarter pass in the end zone Sunday, Kevin Curtis knew that the ball and ***** strong safety Tony Parrish would arrive simultaneously, and that it wouldn't be pleasant.

        Sure enough, Parrish hammered Curtis, knocking the ball away and leaving the Rams' wide receiver stunned. But Curtis hauled himself off the turf and back into the fray.

        "I was a little dizzy for a second," he said, "but I was fine."

        Curtis also suffered a dislocated ring finger on his right hand in the opening minutes and a slightly sprained ankle in the second half. Yet he persevered, winding up with seven catches for 63 yards. He assured that none of his assorted dings would hinder him Sunday, when the Rams play at Arizona.

        "I'm good to go," said Curtis, a 5-foot-11, 186-pound speedster from Utah State.

        The continuing emergence of Curtis and fellow third-year wideout Shaun McDonald - he also made seven catches, for 73 yards, in the Rams' 28-25 loss to the ***** - not only adds to coach Mike Martz's arsenal, but also removes some of the burden from first-teamers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

        After combining for 14 catches and 75 yards as rookies in 2003, both young wideouts had breakthrough seasons last year. McDonald, 24, had 37 receptions for 394; Curtis, 27, caught 32 passes for 421 yards.

        "Both these guys can start just about anywhere," Martz said. "They're playing at a high level. They're a terrific, terrific addition to what we do offensively."

        Bulger launched a franchise-record 56 passes Sunday, which, on the surface, would appear to be a wide receiver's dream come true. But as Curtis noted, the circumstances behind that flurry of tosses weren't desirable.

        "Not when you have to throw, because that usually means that you're losing," he said. "Definitely, as a receiver, you like it when they put the ball up a lot. But when you're in a situation like that, it's not always ideal because you're trying to come from behind."

        The Rams charged back after lagging 28-9 early in the third quarter, and Curtis and McDonald were Bulger's main targets during the rally. Curtis had five catches for 49 yards and McDonald had four, also for 49 yards, from that point on. Holt, the leading receiver on the day (10 catches for 125 yards) did most of his damage in the first half.

        The season-opening defeat, particularly against a team that went 2-14 last year, has steeled the team's resolve for the outing against the Cardinals, Curtis stressed.

        "Any time you come off a loss, you're eager to just get back out on the field," he said. "You kind of have that bad taste in your mouth that you want to get out and have the good feeling...
        -09-16-2005, 04:58 AM
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