Baltimore's pro football world lost one of its most iconic figures Monday when linebacker Mike Curtis, a Colts mainstay, passed away in St. Petersburg, Florida at age 77.
Curtis was a longtime Memorial Stadium fan favorite known for his hard-hitting style and overall intensity, which earned him the nickname "Mad Dog."
He was involved in two of the most famous plays in Baltimore football history. The first was his interception against the Dallas Cowboys in the final minutes of Super Bowl V, which set up Jim O'Brien's game-winning kick. But he is probably best known for his second signature play – his tackle of a fan, of all things.
It happened on December 11, 1971, in between plays in the fourth quarter of a game between the Colts and Miami Dolphins at Memorial Stadium. A drunken fan raced onto the field and tried to run off with the game ball. When Curtis realized what was happening, he broke from the huddle and leveled the fan with a vicious hit, driving him hard into the turf as the fans roared.
Asked about it after the game, Curtis shrugged, "He wasn't supposed to be on the field."
Video of the hit has circulated for years, turning Curtis into a cult hero to later generations. He recalled the incident in a 2016 interview on the Talk of Fame network:
"I tell you what: I didn't give it any thought. What I didn't want was our team to be distracted because of something outside of the game. What we needed to do … I was the captain … and I just needed to make sure that we weren't distracted (by anything) that would affect our game."
Curtis was a Washington D.C. native who played high school football in Rockville, Md. and college football at Duke, where he was a fullback and academic All-American. He was the Colts' first-round draft pick in 1965 and soon switched to linebacker.
He played for the Colts for 11 years. His tenure ended when the Seattle Seahawks selected him in an expansion draft in 1976. He played one year with the Seahawks and two with the Washington Redskins before retiring after the 1978 season.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay whose father owned the Baltimore Colts during Curtis' career, tweeted Monday, "Rest in peace, Mike Curtis. One of the game's most legendary non-Hall-of-Famers. Ferocious on the field, a gentleman off the field."