By Jim Thomas

INDIANAPOLIS — Every morning before the start of the day's official activities at the NFL scouting combine, the Rams' brain trust looks at game tape of players they will interview that night.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry was on their interview list Sunday night, so they looked at tape of him Sunday morning.

"Curry was the first guy we put (tape) on, and we were like, 'Wow! This guy is special,'" Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "He is really good on tape. And then we started talking about the intangibles, and to a man, everybody said he's top of the line." MORE RAMS
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And you should see him in the interview room.

Curry's media session Saturday was one of the most impressive that veteran combine reporters could remember. Charisma. Confidence. Character. Human interest. Curry had it all.

Curry even had a little sugar for draftniks among Rams fans.

"St. Louis would be an awesome team to play for," Curry said. "They picked up Chris Long last year, and he had some words of advice for me going into my senior season. Telling me to just stay focused and continue to play with the passion that I play with, and everything else would take care of itself.

"To play along with a guy like Chris Long and the energy and the passion that he plays with would be amazing."

To date, most of the pre-draft speculation has revolved around the possibility of the Rams taking an offensive tackle or a wide receiver with the No. 2 overall pick.

But they do need help at linebacker, particularly middle linebacker. And in case you missed it, they did just hire a defensive-oriented head coach in Steve Spagnuolo.

Assuming that Will Witherspoon moves back to the weakside spot outside, the Rams need someone to play the middle. At 6-1 1/2, 254 pounds, Curry certainly is big enough for that job.

"He's got the size to play inside," Devaney said. "He's got the athletic ability to play either outside (position). He's a tackling machine. I think that adds to his value — he really can play any of those positions."

At Wake Forest, Curry stayed mainly the strong side, which often involves playing over the tight end and doing some of the grunt work on defense. It's not usually a position that's associated with top-five picks in the draft.

But Curry has some special qualities.

"Versatility. Explosion. All those kinds of things," said one veteran NFC scout. "Smart. Great kid. But it's mainly explosion. It's a game of movement and he explodes to the ball."

A three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer, Curry had 105 tackles and 16 tackles for losses last season en route to the Butkus Award as college football's top linebacker. As a junior in 2007, he had four interceptions, returning three for touchdowns.

"He's a beast, man," said Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith, who's also at the combine. "If you talk to him or see him walking around, you probably won't think that. Just because of the way he carries himself. He's really quiet and very humble and really laid back. I call him The Humble Beast."

So, is Curry the best linebacker in the draft?

"By far, it's not even close," Smith said.

Is he the best defensive player in the draft?

"By far, it's not even close," Smith said.

None of this seemed possible for Curry coming out of high school in Fayetteville, N.C. A lightly recruited 195-pounder, Curry drew interest only from Wake Forest, East Carolina and some non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

"All the doubters are really what motivates you in the weight room when you've got your last set coming up and somebody's telling you to get it done," Curry said. "You know that you have to get it done because there are some people out there that believe you can't get it done."

But Curry, who earned his degree in sociology in December, still had hurdles — and doubters — to overcome in college.

Curry remembers coming home for the summer — "I want to say after my sophomore year" — only to find that his mother (Chris) and two brothers had been evicted from their home. The family scattered for a while, staying with friends and relatives. It was a sobering experience.

"To know that at any given moment anything can be just stripped from you like that," Curry said. "That was one of the biggest turning moments in my life, where I realized I had to do something, and football was it."

Curry thought of turning pro after his junior season, but the NFL advisory committee came back with only a third-round grade. Not that he needed any more motivation, but there it was.

"That was another day that burns in the back of my mind," Curry said. "The doubters helped me get there, but it's not the only thing that motivated me."

For proof of additional motivation, look no farther than the area above each wrist where Curry has tattooed the names of his brothers, Brandon and Christopher.

And check out the tattoos on his upper left shoulder: Underneath a "barcode" for his favorite box of candy (Jujubes), is his birth date, and the words "Property of Chris Curry."

Sounds like a very polished player..