Bill Curry - Early Life and Playing Career

Early Life and Playing Career

Curry was born in College Park, Georgia. A 1965 graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in industrial management, Curry starred at center for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team from 1962 to 1964 under legendary coach Bobby Dodd. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and in his second year, he was the starting Center for Green Bay in their 35-10 Super Bowl I victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

After being exposed to the expansion draft by Vince Lombardi, Curry was soon traded from the expansion Saints to the Baltimore Colts, and played as a reserve there in 1966. Through his tremendous work ethic and tenacity, Curry slowly developed into a first rate NFL center. He was the Colts' starting center during their NFL Championship season of 1968, and was viewed as a reliable force on the offensive line, and a team leader as well.

Like most of his Colts teammates, he remains bewildered by their stunning 16-7 loss in Super Bowl III at the hands of Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Miami's Orange Bowl. The Colts had finished the 1968 season with a record of 13-1 and avenged their only loss that year with a 34-7 devastation of the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship contest. They were heavy favorites to defeat the upstart Jets of the upstart AFL when disaster struck: after carrying the play to New York for most of the first quarter, due to an interception in the Jets' end zone, and two missed field goals, Baltimore had nothing to show for it. Trailing 7-0 late in the first half, and feeling the pressure, the Colts attempted a flea-flicker to help reverse their fortunes. However, after having caught the Jets' defense completely unawares, QB Earl Morrall failed to spot WR Jimmy Orr wide open near the end zone, and instead threw a wobbly pass underneath that was intercepted. In retrospect, this was Baltimore's one last golden opportunity to get back into the game. It was particularly dispiriting for Curry, who, (having no one to block due to the Jets biting hard on the initial hand-off) had a perfect view of Orr, and was sure the play would result in a touchdown. "I looked up, and saw Jimmy open, I don't know what (could've) happened." he said. To add insult to injury, following the loss, Curry and his teammates were subjected to unusually harsh criticisms, including unsubstantiated claims that they had somehow thrown the game.

The Colts and Curry did go on to win Super Bowl V and the tightly-knit, veteran team made a valiant defense of that title, which ended, along with the (owner) Carroll Rosenbloom era, with a loss to Don Shula's Dolphins at the Orange Bowl in the 1971 AFC title game.

After ownership of the Colts was transferred to Bob Irsay, the team spirit which was emblematic of the franchise under Rosenbloom's reign was dissolved by newly-installed GM Joe Thomas. Curry's close confidant, and Colts legend, John Unitas was unceremoniously benched in 1972, and many of those responsible for the franchise's success in years past were shipped out of Baltimore—Curry among them. He learned that he was traded via a collect call from Thomas at the Pro Bowl in Honolulu (evidently, moving the much-heralded Curry in exchange for next to nothing could not wait until his return to the continental U.S.)

During a brief stint with the flagging Houston Oilers in 1973, Curry suffered a catastrophic leg injury when he was hit in the back of the leg by Rams' great, Merlin Olsen. Though he did not retire until August 1975, the injury essentially ended his playing career.

Curry's NFL career is also notable for his efforts in leadership positions (including a stint as president) at the NFLPA. Though their fledgling efforts at self-assertion were largely unsuccessful, it can be argued that men like Curry and Colts teammate John Mackey laid the groundwork for the vastly improved wages and working conditions that exist for NFL players today.

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