It was still there. It had to be. He could feel it.
Curt Marsh lay on his hospital bed with his eyes closed. He could feel the toes of his right foot pressing against the smooth, cool metal of the bed's guardrail. Maybe they didn't take it, he thought. Maybe the doctors had made a mistake. Though they had intended to amputate, perhaps they had found another way.
Marsh opened his eyes and looked down. Slowly, he lifted the sheet and strained to see the foot he swore he could feel. But it was gone.
He closed his eyes again, blinking back tears. It was over.
When he came out of the University of Washington in 1981, Marsh was one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He had been raised in Snohomish, Wash., and bulked up by tossing bales of hay for local farmers, who marveled at his strength. When Snohomish High won the state football championship in '76, townsfolk knew that much of the credit belonged to Marsh, who played both offensive and defensive tackle. Marsh was a four-year letterman and a major force on Washington's '78 and '81 Rose Bowl teams. By the end of his college career he stood 6'5", weighed 285 pounds and had a 52-inch chest. He was on every NFL team's wish list.
"He was the guy we wanted," says Tom Flores, a former Raider quarterback who coached the team from 1979 to '87 and is now coach of the Seattle Seahawks. "We liked his size, his thickness. Everything about him. We wanted him first and [future Hall of Fame defensive end] Howie Long second. That says a lot."
The Raiders made Marsh their first draft pick—the 23rd overall that year—and as a rookie, he lived up to his billing, starting at left guard for most of the season, opening up cavernous holes for Marcus Allen and earning a spot on the 1981 All-Rookie team. "He had the whole package," says former Raider linebacker Matt Millen. "If he had stayed healthy, he would have been All-Pro over and over and over."
But Marsh did not stay healthy. In fact, after his rookie season, injuries plagued him for much of the next six years, eventually forcing him out of the game in 1987. By the time Marsh finally called it quits, he had endured 12 operations, including four on his right ankle and right foot. He had also broken his right arm, his left hand and a finger, and he had torn a ligament in his left knee.
But Marsh's ordeal did not end with his retirement. For seven years thereafter, he was tormented by chronic pain, which numerous surgical procedures failed to alleviate. On Sept. 21 at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Marsh underwent amputation of his right foot and the lower leg from eight inches below his knee.
According to Marsh, the Raiders have said that his use of muscle-building anabolic steroids was responsible for his injuries, that his muscles grew too large for his ligaments, tendons and bones to handle. And Marsh does not deny having used steroids. He says he first took them in 1980, before his senior year at Washington: three five-milligram tablets of the synthetic steroid Dianabol every day for a month. Marsh says that the next time he took steroids was in '82, when a doctor in San Francisco prescribed a once-a-month shot of one cubic centiliter of testosterone combined with one cubic centiliter of Deca-Durabolin, another synthetic steroid. He also prescribed 10 milligrams of yet another, Anavar, taken orally once a day. Marsh says he was on this program for two months.