Curt Marsh is one inspiring guy. One BIG inspiring guy.
Marsh wears a Super Bowl ring from his playing days with the Oakland Raiders. He also
wears a prosthetic leg which resulted from a terrible ankle injury during those same
playing days. He is now a motivational speaker, sharing with executives and teenagers
alike the lessons he has learned from his journey through college and pro sports, and
eventually, a career ending injury which led to the amputation of his leg. It is an injury
which has also led just as surely to a truly remarkable sense of purpose and direction
including five Life Lessons which anyone can use and benefit from.
Marsh won championships at every level of football. Football is over but he's still a
"I almost quit (the football team)
before my senior year," begins Curt. "I didn't play football until my sophmore
year of high school and, because I started late, I wasn't very good at it. It's very
frustrating being the biggest guy on the field and not having the technique down."
But his coaches convinced him that his hard work would pay off. And it payed off in a big
way. That year was a dream come true for Curt, his teammates and coaches when Snohomish
High School won the 1976 state championship.
Curt was voted a Parade High School
All-American in 1976 and headed for the University of Washington to play football, but he
wasn't thinking about being a pro football player yet. "I hadn't even made my college
team," Marsh emphasizes. "I just wanted to letter. I wanted to be the best Husky
lineman there was. That was my focus, period. When I became a pro it was the same thing. I
just worked hard to be the best right where I was."
"Marsh's Lesson #1: Work hard.
Work hard to be the best right where you are," begins Curt Marsh during an
inspirational talk about success. "The rest will take care of itself."
This is no speech from an ivory tower. He
knows about hard work and success because he has experienced a great deal of both. His
list of athletic accomplishments is long: a state high school football championship,
Parade High School All-American, a Rose Bowl championship, concensus college All-American,
NFL 1st-round draft choice, and a Super Bowl championship. Very, very few people can lay
claim to athletic success like that, let alone a small town kid who really wanted to be a
pro basketball player.
But such is the athletic legacy of Curt
"I grew up in a small town in
Washington state and attended a Christian school through eighth grade that didn't have
football, so basketball became the sport I loved," Curt explains. "My eighth
grade teacher and basketball coach in that small school, Don Rabe, became a real source of
inspiration to me. He was our teacher, our coach, and a great role model. He had a great
way of working with kids and he built confidence in us, " remembers Marsh. "Don
was a huge hero of mine."
When asked about other heroes and inspiring
people in his life, Curt recalls several: a high school basketball coach, Jack deKubber,
who made sports a joy; Jeff Lee, a student-athlete several years older than Marsh who
worked hard, led by example, and treated his younger teammates with respect; Keith
Gilbertson, Sr., who spent every summer all through Curt's college and the pro years
training and mentoring him, never accepting a penny for his time and effort.
Then there is Dick Armstrong, his high
school football coach. "I didn't like him when I was in high school because he pushed
me so hard. He knew what I was capable of even though I didn't. He's one of those people
who put you through situations that you wouldn't put yourself into and that ultimately
show you what it takes to make it in this world." With obvious admiration and pride,
Marsh adds, "He was a great leader. Now he's one of my best friends."
As we finish our discussion of the people
who inspired him, Curt adds, I also want to mention my father because I love him
very much, and because he is an example of work ethic for me." He never pushed me
into sports, never yelled and screamed at coaches, none of that. He had two rules about
sports for me: #1, If you start something, you don't quit; #2, Do what the coach says. If
I got in trouble with the coach, I was worried that my parents would find out because I
would be in trouble with them, too. Now days, way too often, when a kid gets in trouble
from a coach, it's the coach who gets yelled at by the parents."
Sometime in 1986 during his 6th year with
the Oakland Raiders, most of that time as a starting offensive guard, Curt Marsh broke his
ankle. The initial x-ray was inconclusive. He didn't know for sure it was broken but he
knew it hurt...and he felt he would show his loyalty to the team and play with the pain.
He had the ankle shot with novacaine so that he couldn't feel the pain...or feel walking
on it at all. It was also the pain that could have told him how serious the injury really
was. He continued to play several more games, numbing the ankle before the game and
enduring incredible pain after each game when the novacaine wore off.
Early in 1987 the ongoing, excrutiating
pain led him to get a second doctor's opinion. Another type of x-ray clearly showed a very
serious fracture. Marsh decided then that his pro football career was over. Surgery to
insert a screw stabilizing the ankle went smoothly but the next operation to remove the
screw resulted in a bad infection. Six years and twelve operations followed. "They
basically tried every operation possible," recalls Curt. "The choice came down
to living in unbearable pain my whole life or having my leg amputated about six inches
below the knee."
Life was about to
deliver Curt Marsh his greatest challenge ever and in that challenge he would discover
some of life's most important lessons:
Marsh's Lesson #2:
The Bad News: we are powerless over certain circumstances that happen to us in
life that can be terribly painful and feel very unfair. It could be an illness, the death
of a loved one, getting fired from a job, or an amputation. The Good News:
"The history of the world has never been about what happens to us. It's about how we
deal with what happens to us."
Lesson #3: You don't have to look very far to find
someone a little worse off than you are. Curt explains, "If life somehow gave
everyone the ability to throw our problems into a big bag and take out ones we'd rather
have, we'd pull out about two problems that belonged to someone else and want to have our
#4: Who people are has nothing to do with the shell they live in. With distinctive
style, Marsh says, "17 years ago my wife married me when I weighed 290 (lbs.), had 5%
body fat, and was a first round pick in the NFL...and she said, 'Yeah, I think I'll marry
that guy.' Now every night, she goes to bed with an overweight guy with one leg who shakes
it at her and says, 'Good night, honey,' and she says she loves me more now than she ever
has. I finally figured out that she loves me, not the shell I live in. If she sees me that
way, and God sees me that way, then I need to try to see other people that way, too."
Lesson #5: What goes around comes around. "There was
such an overwhelming outpouring of love to me during my recovery. When we go through those
times that hurt and seem so unfair, how we have treated other people everyday will come
back to us a thousand-fold."
Curt Marsh's mission
is to bring hope and honest belief for the future into the lives of others. He is one
inspiring guy. Big time.
You can contact him
through Curt Marsh and Assoc. (phone) 360.651.9426 // (fax) 425.259.9036 (email) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Reiman is the Editor-In-Chief of
Incredible People. You can contact him at