I have met very few celebrities in my lifetime. You could probably say that I don’t get out much, but I like to think that I just don’t have the financial resources to go to big time events or pay to stand in autograph lines. I have met a few music artists over the years, but they have never amounted to more than a handshake, an exchange of a few polite comments, and possibly receiving an autographed photo or CD case. Even going to Penn State, the closest I ever got to meeting big time names was passing Paul Posluszny or Deon Butler (just to name two) on the sidewalk or in the dining commons and just happening to exchange a quick glance. I also saw Joe Paterno drive by in his silver BMW a few times, but that doesn’t really count as “meeting” either.
I point this out so that you can fully appreciate that I experienced a first on Friday night.
My wife and I were driving up to visit some close friends in the greater State College area. During our miserable drive (PSU football traffic sucks on a Friday afternoon), we were informed our dinner plans had slightly changed and that we would be dining out with my friend’s sister-in-law (sorta) and her “talent,” whatever the hell that meant. Fine. We were hungry. We met up with our friends and then met up with said sister-in-law at the Penn Stater Conference Center (hotel, fancy restaurant, etc.). It turns out said sister-in-law is a producer for a national radio station that broadcasts several NCAA and NFL football games each week. She was in town to cover the Penn State/Syracuse game the following afternoon. Her “talent” included a few engineers (who were quite funny and good story-tellers), a Penn State media relations employee, and her play-by-play and color announcers. Just before we took our seats, I was told the color announcer is Curtis Conway.
Curtis Conway? I have some of his football cards!
Sure enough, Mr. Curtis Conway joined us for dinner. Unlike many NFL veterns/retirees, Curtis was not a self-absorbed jerk or a pompous ass hole. He was very friendly and down to earth and insisted we call him Curtis. He rarely even brought up his respectible 12-year playing career, other than when we were discussing best/worst NFL fans and he told us that when he was playing with the Chargers later in his career, they were playing the Raiders and someone was stabbed in the stands. Surprisingly enough, we decided that Raiders fans were some of the best in the NFL because they are so passionate despite having an absolutely awful team. He also told us some amusing stories related to being married to Laila Ali, boxing champion and daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The only time I saw Curtis try to flaunt his celebrity status was when he asked the waiters to bring out a second mint chocolate cake to the dessert buffet. They gladly obliged, but he did say later that if they refused, he would have asked if they knew who his wife and father-in-law were. He also felt the need to bring up that he was on the USC roster when they beat Penn State in 1991, but also admitted he didn’t play a single down in the game. He claimed he helped to prepare the starters, and therefore, he helped beat Penn State. So my friend threw in a comment about the University of Spoiled Children, and he had a good laugh about it.
When I got home from the weekend, I checked my work-in-progess football card Access database. I currently have 6 Curtis Conway cards entered, all of which will eventually be partially featured right here on First and Goal as they were pulled from boxes I bought to write Product Review articles. As I work through the rest of my collection, I am hoping to find a few more, possibly even one of his 1993 rookie cards.
Curtis proved that athletes can still be class acts and worthy members of society — a refreshing thought in today’s world. Even my wife, who is by no means a football fan, was impressed with his demeanor and humbleness. I would definitely consider myself a Curtis Conway fan after meeting him on Friday. Will I become the next Curtis Conway super collector? Probably not. But I do feel privileged to have sat and ate with the former NFL receiver and will definitely be looking for his cards in any older products I bust in the future.
If you’d like to see some stats from Curtis Conway’s career, go here