Doug Robinson: Kevin Curtis is . . . a surprising, rising star

Former USU Aggie is quickly becoming star WR for Rams

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 25 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Even for members of his own family it is difficult to explain how Kevin Curtis made the leap from the kid who had to beg for a tryout at Snow College to star-in-the-making wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams. His father Stuart confesses, "I've been watching him and trying to figure out how he got to where he is."

Curtis wasn't even the best player on his Bingham High School football team. He wasn't even the best receiver on his team. Not only was he not an all-state selection, he didn't even warrant honorable mention. His top honor: All-region second team, on defense. He had to walk on to play junior college ball. He left the game for two years to serve a mission for his church and had to walk on again.

And here he is, an NFL player whose abilities have been praised by coach Mike Martz since the day he made him with the 74th pick of the 2003 NFL draft. Martz was smitten after watching Curtis collect a school-record 174 catches for 2,789 yards and 19 touchdowns at Utah State.

"You put the tape on and the first thing you would say was 'wow,' " Martz told St. Louis reporters last January. "It didn't make any difference who he played, he was running by everybody. I'm not sure I've ever seen anybody in college that fast. I really mean that."

Curtis is a physical freak of nature. At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, he bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times in a workout for NFL scouts (his best is 385). He also posted a vertical leap of 38 inches and a hand-timed 40-yard dash of 4.21.

If that weren't enough, Curtis has brains. Each year the NFL gives a 12-minute, 50-question intelligence test called the Wonderlic to college NFL prospects. Curtis has the highest score of any active player in the NFL — a 48. Reportedly, only one player in NFL history has scored higher — Harvard grad Pat McInnally, a receiver/punter for the Cincinnati Bengals who scored a perfect 50 in 1976.

After missing most of his rookie season with a broken leg, Curtis returned last season to catch 32 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns (not counting the playoffs). He finished the season on a tear. In the regular-season finale against the Jets, he had six catches for 99 yards. A week later he had 6 catches for 108 yards in a playoff win over Seattle and was named the team's Offensive Player of the Week. In the playoff loss to Atlanta he had 7 catches for 128 yards and 1 touchdown.

"He deserves to be a starter," Martz said afterward. "He's a good player, and I'm excited to see what he'll do in the future."

So were other observers. Sports Illustrated included him on a list of key players to watch this season. So far, Curtis has 32 catches for 452 yards and 3 touchdowns in seven games plus one rushing touchdown while sharing the ball with the likes of Issac Bruce and Tory Holt.

Curtis has the hands and moves to be a possession receiver and the speed to be a deep threat. In last week's nationally televised Monday-night game, he hauled in a 57-yard touchdown pass against the Indianapolis Colts' top-ranked defense. In last year's playoffs, he blew by the Atlanta Falcons' Deangelo Hall, who produced the fastest time at the 2004 NFL combine, to catch a 57-yard touchdown. Hall reportedly called him the fastest white guy in the NFL.

Which raises another oddity about Curtis: His skin color. If you think there aren't many black quarterbacks in the NFL, try counting white wide receivers and running backs. During Curtis's senior season at Utah State, his agent Gary Wichard had several conversations with a representative of the Senior Bowl about Curtis's participation in the game. Finally, one day the Senior Bowl rep called Wichard and exclaimed, "That Kevin Curtis —- he's a white kid!!!?? Did you know that?!"

"People make reference about me being a fast white guy," says Curtis. "They don't think of a white guy when they think of speed. I've heard a few comments on the field. A couple of games ago, someone said, 'You sure can run for a white guy.'"

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