The story of Marquis “Bin Laden” Curtis is that of resilience and triumph. His talents at the quarterback position made the Crenshaw Cougars football team a competitive force in the mid 2000s. Curtis led the Cougars to their first Division I City Section title in school history.
Marquis took on to football at an early age. His cousin and father-figure Chris Reese noticed his affinity for football when watching Curtis play in a Pap Warner football game. Being a coach, Reese knew that Curtis would attend whatever high school he would be coaching at. By the time Curtis was old enough to attend the ninth grade, Reese was coaching at Crenshaw High School.
“He was there with me and with the help of a bunch of others,” Reese said. “Devin Hollis … he trained him up, taught him how to really play and Eric Scott took him under his wing.”
Although he had the skills to play basketball, he lacked the size and speed to play football. It was a struggle to find him a position on the football team, until one day he tossed a football for 70 yards. Curtis became a starting quarterback by his 10th grade year.
“I don’t know how he did it,” said former Crenshaw assistant coach Eric Scott. “We had a big line. A lot of times he couldn’t see over the line, but he knew how to throw it to the right guy.”
A teenager who was charismatic, rebellious, and mischievous had found his niche; Curtis’ personality and skill complemented the Cougars and the players bought into his leadership. His sophomore season was the same year that Crenshaw installed lights in the football stadium and played their first prime time game.
Reese mentioned how he put on a strong performance as a sophomore.
“He didn’t really have his spiral down pact, but he did pretty good in the 10th,” he said, “Then after that, he got way better.”
Many of the players around that time inherited nicknames and Curtis was nicnamed “Bin Laden,” after the late founder of the Islamic organization al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden.
During his junior year, Curtis broke his femur and was out for the season. Crenshaw football’s then trainer Victor Pulido PhD, ATC helped Curtis rehab. Curtis bounced back from what could have been a career ending injury to play in his senior year.
“It meant everything to us,” Reese said. “We got our quarterback back; we wouldn’t have did it without him.”
Curtis had a way of threading the needle when he completed passes and he could make big plays. His leadership also played a crucial role in their success.
“He is the picture-perfect definition of practice made perfect,” Scott said. “He asked a whole lot of questions, very inquisitive … he wanted to be the best.”
With Curtis at the helm, the Cougars had a 11-3 overall record during the 2005-2006 season and played against Taft in the division I City Section Championship game. An 85-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down helped Crenshaw secure the victory.
“He rolls out to his left and guys are chasing him and (Darian) Hagan is running across,” Scott said. “[Curtis] launches the ball from the left side all the way to the right … that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
It was a defining moment for Crenshaw football, Scott noted how that play switched the momentum to Crenshaw’s favor.
“For [Curtis] to see how he grew from “Bin Laden” to this awesome quarterback … it’s what we do it for,” Scott said. “It’s why a lot of us coach football it’s why a lot of us give our time back.”
Curtis will be remembered for his ability to persevere and be a leader.