Har Bell Heritage Hero Athlete - Curt Merz
One of the great voices in Springfield is KTXR’s morning voice, Curt Merz. Many know the voice and the face, but many do not know about Curt’s past glories, and how he got to where he is. That is why Curt Merz is this month’s Har-Bell Heritage Hero.
Curt grew up in Springfield, New Jersey, where athletics were a part of life. He knew if he didn’t play football, because of his size, he would be in for a lot of torment from schoolmates. He was recognized by many alumni in the New York City area, but was recruited mostly by the Iowa Hawkeyes. He stayed in Iowa until he was drafted in 1962 by the New York Titans and then was traded to the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. The Dallas Texans later moved to Kansas City and become the first AFL team to play an NFL team in Super Bowl I.
Curt had some tremendous rivalries in the AFL with the Miami Dolphins and the ever-hated Oakland Raiders. He remembers a game in Miami where the entire offensive line was covered in mud from a game and quarterback Len Dawson didn’t have a mark on him. It gave his offensive line a sense of achievement that day and the rest of his career.
Every time they would play each other he knew it would be an all-out war. He still gets a weird feeling when old Raiders players come to Kansas City to play because they were Raiders and they hated them so much.
One of the best memories of Merz’s football career was playing in the first Super Bowl against Green Bay. Although the media blitz wasn’t as exclusive as today’s media, the excitement and joy of the game was still there. This was the first time the AFL and NFL went head to head and Curt was thrilled to be a part of it. He remembered that it was a hard fought battle, yet the Chiefs lost 35-10 in Super Bowl I. He received $7,300 for the loss and an AFL championship ring, but the memories were priceless. He remembered thinking to himself that the NFL teams were not as strong or fast as the AFL; they just played the game better.
Curt also had the privilege of playing against greats like Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus and Merlin Olson. Curt knew his relationship to each of them was not star to player, but friend to friend. After meeting all of these players and people the biggest moment in his football career was when the AFL won the Super Bowl and a no name quarterback took the Cinderella New York Jets to the championship. That quarterback of course was “Broadway" Joe Namath.
When Curt retired from the NFL in 1968 he entered the restaurant business in Kansas City and found his way to the microphone, doing part time sports reports for a local radio station. The station was impressed enough with his work that he got his own regular sports show with them, and that’s when he had to make a decision.
He had to choose between his restaurant work and the opportunities he saw in broadcasting. He made his decision, and his broadcasting career has continued since. Although he has played in the Super Bowl and has played against many legends of the game, Merz would like to be best known for his broadcasting work, of which he is most proud of. Curt is not a football player who also is a broadcaster; he is a broadcaster who just happened to play football.
Curt is one of those people who had one spectacular moment in life and instead of reveling in past glories, he’s gone on to have one great moment after another. He’s a unique personality in Springfield who deserves to be honored for what he has accomplished and for what he still hopes to do. That’s why Curt Merz is this month’s Har-Bell Heritage Hero.
--by BIG SPORTS staff (February 1998)