Marsh’s all-time high

Curt Marsh has a Super Bowl ring and was on a team that played in three college bowl games, including two Rose Bowls. But the former football lineman doesn’t count any of those as the favorite experience in his eventful athletic career.

Instead, Marsh picks the 1976 state championship at Seattle Memorial Stadium, where he and his Snohomish High School teammates beat Federal Way, capping a perfect 13-0 season.

Nothing — not even big-time games he played with the University of Washington and the NFL’s Raiders — ever compared to that victory with Snohomish, Marsh said.

“It was the only game I’ve ever played where I felt like afterwards, ‘I can die now. My life is complete.’ It just was that emotionally charging. It was an incredible experience,” Marsh said.

After high school, Marsh became an All-American at the University of Washington and played seven seasons for the Raiders, first in Oakland and then in Los Angeles.

He climbed to the top level of his sport, but never matched the joy he experienced at the end of his senior season at Snohomish.

Said Marsh, 48, who lives in Snohomish and occasionally works as a motivational speaker, “That feeling of (winning a state title) with your friends that you grew up with — these are guys that may never go on to play football again, but for that one night they were superstars.”

Marsh, though, stayed in the spotlight long after high school, and he will be honored April 16 for his gridiron achievements with an induction into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame.

Marsh, whose pro career was cut short because of a severe ankle injury that ultimately required the partial amputation of his right leg, said the Hall of Fame honor means a great deal. But, he said, it’s less about him and more about those who influenced him.

“This award represents all of the people in my life that believed in me and gave me the tools to do anything positive. This is about those people that helped me accomplish any goal I set to do.”

Marsh’s football success is more remarkable considering he didn’t start playing until age 15 and initially hated the sport.

As a 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore, Marsh arrived at Snohomish High as a physically gifted athlete with essentially no football experience. Basic tasks were a struggle.

“I actually didn’t even know that you had to put your shoulder pads on first and then your helmet,” Marsh said. “I put my helmet on first and then tried to get my shoulder pads over my helmet.”

Frustrated with football (“It was an embarrassing situation. I just thought to myself, ‘I don’t like this.’”) Marsh focused on basketball, his first love. He made the varsity team as a sophomore and gained confidence.

Marsh played varsity football as a junior but still didn’t enjoy it much. He seriously considered quitting before his senior season. He remembered telling a friend: “‘There’s nothing in it for me. I’ll never get a scholarship. I suck at this stupid sport.’”

That could have been the end. Instead, Marsh was talked out of quitting by teammates, coaches and his dad. Their encouragement convinced him to try again.

And that’s when everything changed for Marsh.

“It was like a light switch went off. He had a stellar season his senior year,” said Chris Utt, Marsh’s friend who was also a senior on the unbeaten 1976 Snohomish team.

The turning point, said Marsh, came during the first week of preseason two-a-day workouts. Finally meshing proper technique with his physical talents, Marsh absolutely leveled a large teammate in a blocking drill. After that, he was hooked.

“I threw him on the ground and I landed on him,” Marsh said, “and he made that sound I grew to love.”

It was the sound of being utterly manhandled, and Marsh inflicted similar punishment on many foes that season. As a right tackle on offense and defense, he earned all-league, all-state and national recognition.

It set up an impressive rise through the college and pro ranks.

“His future was pretty well forged for him because he had all the things you needed to be an outstanding player,” Keith Gilbertson Sr. said.

Gilbertson was an assistant football coach when Marsh played for Snohomish. They didn’t work together much in those days because Gilbertson coached running backs and defensive backs, but later Gilbertson directed the lineman during rigorous offseason workouts.

“I always looked up to him for how dedicated he was to being a good player,” said Gilbertson.

Gilbertson’s weightlifting and running sessions were so grueling that Marsh’s fitness level actually declined when he went to college and pro training camps, Marsh said.

“He seemed to know when enough was enough,” said Marsh, “but he’d push you to that limit. He used to say things like, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll pass out before you’ll die.’”

Another coach who had a major impact on Marsh was Dick Armstrong, Snohomish’s legendary head football coach who died in 1999. Marsh said he eventually understood the man he once saw as overly harsh and ornery.

“I didn’t realize until after I left high school and grew into a man what a great human being Dick Armstrong was,” Marsh said, “and what a great influence he had on my life to make me a stronger man.”

Contact Prep Writer Mike Cane at And check out the prep sports blog Double Team at

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Archbishop Murphy players celebrate during a boys soccer game between Archbishop Murphy and Arlington at Arlington High School on Monday, April 15, 2024 in Arlington, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Archbishop Murphy routs Arlington 7-0 in boys soccer

Gabe Herrera scores a hat trick and Zach Mohr contributes two goals for the Wildcats.

The Herald's Athlete of the Week poll.
Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for April 8-14

The Athlete of the Week nominees for April 8-14. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Prep roundup for Monday, April 15

Prep roundup for Monday, April 15: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson, top, forces out the Seattle Mariners’ Jorge Polanco (7) at second base and makes the throw to first for the double play against Mariners’ Ty France to end the eighth inning of Sunday’s game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Hitting woes plague Mariners again in series loss to Cubs

Seattle ended the weekend 6-10, and the offense has been the main culprit.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith may have been a Pro Bowler, but should Seattle consider prioritizing a quarterback in the NFL draft? (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Should Seahawks prioritize quarterback in draft?

A challenger to Geno Smith is something worth considering for Seattle.

Snohomish's Morgan Gibson returns the ball in her match against Stanwood's Ryann Reep on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. Gibson lost the first set 4-6 but rallied back to win 6-2 in the second and 6-0 in the third. The Panthers bested the Spartans 5-2. (Taras McCurdie / The Herald)
Snohomish girls tennis bests Stanwood, 5-2

Panthers sweep singles, Spartans win first and second doubles

Prep roundup for Saturday, April 13

Prep roundup for Saturday, April 13: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Prep roundup for Friday, April 12

Prep roundup for Friday, April 12: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Lake Stevens’ Jesse Lewis takes the handoff as the anchor in the 4x400 during a meet Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens track and field retains Pilchuck Cup

Vikings’ David Brown, Jada Sarrys and Arlington’s Dallas Miller were standouts.

Prep roundup for Thursday, April 11

Prep roundup for Thursday, April 11: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

The Shorecrest High School boys soccer team plays keep away in the final minutes of a 5-0 victory over Mountlake Terrace on Wednesday at Edmonds Stadium. (Evan Wiederspohn / The Herald)
Shorecrest boys soccer shuts down Mountlake Terrace

Eddie Carli performs hat trick, Wyatt Kimball adds two scores as Scots get out of funk in 5-0 win.

Prep roundup for Wednesday, April 10

Prep roundup for Wednesday, April 10: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.