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Curry pays tribute to Marshall

Landon
May. 05, 2012 @ 12:26 AM

This is vintage Vinny.

Remember how Curry's trademark No. 99 became notorious to Marshall opponents?

Remember how No. 99 struck fear in the hearts of quarterbacks?

Remember how No. 99 nearly jumped off game films?

Well, cherish those memories because nobody will see Curry wearing No. 99 anymore. When the former Marshall star defensive end was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, he quickly learned that No. 99 wasn't available.

That is one of eight numbers Philadelphia has retired to honor former greats. In this case, Jerome Brown was the last Eagle to wear No. 99.

So, Philadelphia arbitrarily offered Curry No. 75.

How long did it take the rookie to pull the trigger on wearing that number?

"Quick. ... as soon as I saw it," said Curry. "You know what I mean? They said I could have some other numbers, but I just went ahead and chose No. 75. There are some great pass-rushers who have worn No. 75."

Deacon Jones of "Fearsome Foursome" fame with the Rams comes to mind. Oh, yeah, and who can forget the Steelers' legendary No. 75? That was the inimitable Mean Joe Greene.

So, it seemed like a reasonable choice. Curry said thanks and didn't give No. 75 much more thought.

Until, he arrived back in Huntington, that is.

That's when the incredible irony of his new NFL number hit Curry like a chop block.

He was Thunder-struck.

"When I realized that was the actual number of people who died in the plane crash," said Curry, "it just made it more important to me. I was like, 'Wow, now I know why that number stuck out to me.' "

Indeed.

That number has been engrained in most of us since that tragic night on Nov. 14, 1970. But to a young guy from Neptune, N.J., such as Curry? All he knows is Marshall's football team perished in that crash.

The actual number of casualties was insignificant.

Until now.

"After a while," said Curry, "I realized that it would mean a lot to everyone, too. So, when the Eagles called me earlier this week and asked if I wanted to change it, I said, 'Nah, I'll stick with No. 75.'

"I realized how it was going to affect the whole community here. So, I am going to try to live up to wearing that No. 75 and perform like I know how to perform."

What a great tribute by Curry.

Marshall has produced many NFL players during the 42 years since the tragedy, but none have taken a step of such emotional enormity as to wear the actual number of the crash victims.

The significance of that move will be measured in merchandise sales as soon as Curry's No. 75 Philadelphia Eagles jersey becomes available in local sporting goods stores. It is certain to become the hottest piece of sports paraphernalia in not only the Tri-State, but across the Herd Universe.

"I hope so, man," said Curry, who is back in Huntington before reporting to the Eagles' rookie camp next week. "I hope to see everybody in an Eagles jersey."

He will. And he should. That's the least we can do for a guy making this grand of a gesture.

Yet, is anybody surprised that Curry did this?

Not me.

Curry always has worn his heart on his sleeve. And, now, he's going to wear it on his jersey.

How very vintage Vinny.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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