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Curry's murder stirs memory of bullet of an earlier Colt era


He was another Colts football player picked on the second round.

When the news came across the wire Sunday that Shane Curry, defensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts, had been shot and killed in a parking lot dispute in Cincinnati, suddenly it was 1982 again.

It was this time of year, adding a week or two, and the then-Baltimore Colts had just completed a mini-camp the previous weekend. Mike Woods was visiting back home in Cleveland and, as was his custom, he had just completed an early-morning workout and was looking forward to the warm, sunny day.

Around mid-morning, Mike got a call from his father Woody, requesting he come pick him up. Pop had been out all night playing cards and the game was just breaking up.

In the next 24 hours, at least that many stories had made the rounds, but, basically, here's what happened. It was a friendly game, according to Woody Woods, and he knew all the players save for one. That one excused himself from the game and went upstairs to use the bathroom in the known all-night establishment in a rough section of East Cleveland just as Mike walked in.

A minute or two later, the guy came downstairs, fired one shot and hollered, "Everybody down on the floor." At first, no one realized Mike Woods was hit. The robber grabbed the money off the table, collected some jewelry and lit out. It was then discovered that the robber's bullet had sliced through Mike's spinal cord.

It was the following day, Sunday, when Colts coach Frank Kush and assistant general manager Ernie Accorsi arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital in Cleveland. Their presence immediately calmed Woody Woods and as they spoke to Mike, who was paralyzed from the chin down but was getting slight feeling on his right side, the father spoke to me. He was a troubled man.

"Got to set the record straight," he said. "The truth. Time for the truth. That's the only thing that's going to help Mike."

Woody, it seems, had tried to make his actions sound respectable with a story about installing air conditioning in the house and his son coming by to pick him up. He said he was in the basement at the time of the shooting when, in fact, he had seen Mike shot.

Different stories hit the newspapers, television and radio. A couple of women showed up at the hospital saying they were married to Mike, who was single. Woody Woods was inundated.

"It's all my fault," he finally blurted out. "I don't like to see my son discredited for what I did. Yes, I play cards. I gamble. But what I do has nothing to do with Mike."

It was Kush who put the moment in perspective as one investigator sat down with the father and another asked me to read my notes to him. "No matter what the particulars of the story are," said the coach, "there's a guy in there fighting for his life."

The doctor in charge of the shock trauma unit explained that if it weren't for the superior physical condition of Mike Woods, he certainly would not have survived the preceding 24 hours. "There's still a question of his system being able to stand the shock. Then there's infection," he said. Internal swelling was such that surgery was out of the question for at least 48 hours.

Mike requested to have tubes removed from his throat every so often so he could speak and not once did he bemoan the fact that he was an innocent bystander dealt this cruelest of blows. He was still upset that the week before during mini-camp one of his balky knees had blown up during agility drills.

It was mostly an ill-fated career Mike had despite its promising start. His high school and college coaches both said Mike had more physical tools than any athlete they had been associated with. His high school, Cleveland Benedictine, had won two state championships in football in spite of an enrollment of just 450 boys. Mike Woods was a terrific basketball player, too.

He went to junior college, then to the University of Tampa until it dropped football. He transferred to the University of Cincinnati, where he became the school's first All-American. When the Colts got him on the second round of the 1978 draft, you would have thought they just staged the Brinks job.

A bad back cost him his rookie season. He still made it into the starting lineup the next year before a knee went. He played well his third year, but spent more than half the time on the injured reserve list. Woods was one of the few guys Kush didn't target with his acerbic wit.

Before the tubes went back down his throat the unforgettable May day in 1982, Mike Woods attempted to relieve his father's anguish. He looked at Kush and said, "don't give up on me yet, coach." Then he looked at the others and said, "thanks for caring," and everyone felt so inadequate.

Mike's now a quadriplegic, and he finished up work on his degree from Cincinnati.

That's a whole lot better than Shane Curry's fate after being shot in the head, allegedly by a 15-year-old during an argument in a parking lot over one car blocking another's egress. Curry, a No. 2 pick out of Miami last year, was pronounced dead an hour after being shot.

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