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Curry Overcomes Obstacles on way to Top
Curry Overcomes Obstacles on way to Top
Sunday, February 22, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
INDIANAPOLIS – The doubters told Aaron Curry this could never happen. This moment, standing in front of assembled NFL media as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft, was supposed to be nothing but a pipe dream.
But this was reality. This was Curry recounting the many steps contested on his way to becoming the country’s best linebacker and a potential No. 1 pick in April’s draft.
This was a 6’1 ½, 254-pound Curry all grown up from the 195-pound high school kid who used to pad his clothes to try to make himself look bigger to college recruiters.
This was a soon to be wealthy beyond his wildest dreams Curry discussing the time he returned home from Wake Forest to a mother who had been evicted from her home.
This was the charismatic, tattoo-covered Curry who loves his family above all else and is driven by doing all he can to take care of them.
“I'm always a motivated person,” Curry said. “The doubters helped me get here, but it's not the only thing that motivated me. My family, my mother, my two brothers, did a good job of making sure I was always motivated and the situations I faced in my life as far as housing and whether the lights were on or not kept me motivated.”
The many bases of Curry’s motivation have led him to Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend for the annual NFL Combine. Curry will work out with the rest of the linebackers on Monday afternoon, a workout that is expected to be every bit as stellar as his four-year career at Wake Forest.
Assuming all goes well, Curry is a slam dunk to be a top 5 pick in this year’s draft and he’s quickly gaining momentum toward being the No. 1 overall pick to Detroit.
To know how Curry got here, you must first understand where he came from.
Curry was born on April 6, 1986 in Fayetteville, N.C. to mother Chris Curry and father Reggie Pinkney.
Even from that early age, football seemed to be in Curry’s blood. Pinkney was a Hall of Fame defensive back at East Carolina University and went on to play for the Lions and Baltimore Colts from 1977-1981.
By the time Curry was born, Pinkney’s football career had been over for about five years. But things didn’t quite come together as Curry and his father never really developed much of a close relationship.
Even as Curry follows in the footsteps of his father on his way to the NFL, the pair still isn’t terribly close.
“He tries to be there to support,” Curry said. “He calls probably two or three times a month to make sure I keep my head on straight because he wants to see me do good and even though we didn't have that strong of a relationship as I grew up, he wants me to do the right things.”
Without a father figure around, Curry became extremely close with his brothers Christopher and Brandon and, of course, his mother.
As Curry began to grow his love for the game, he couldn’t help but think of his family every time he stepped on the field.
Curry leaned on his family for support, to the point that he has taken to body art as a way to honor his brothers and mother.
On each wrist, Curry honors a brother with the names Brandon and Christopher tattooed. On his left shoulder, he has a tattoo of a bar code meant to represent his favorite candy (Jujubes) with his birth date as a serial number and the words Property of above the bar code and Chris Curry underneath it.
“I have tattoos all over that represent myself and my family because they mean the world to me,” Curry said. “I have family and football.”
WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT
Even at E.E. Smith High, Curry enjoyed football for what it was and harbored dreams of one day playing in the NFL. While teammates such as DeMarcus ‘Tank’ Tyler were clearly bound for Division I schools and eventually the NFL, Curry was a play making linebacker without the size to gain any sort of national attention.
Curry had to sell himself as a 195-pound linebacker and tight end in search of a Division I scholarship.
Despite being his conference’s defensive player of the year, Curry found little love from major schools. East Carolina offered, perhaps because of the connection to Curry’s father and finally Wake Forest also came through with an offer.
Curry vowed then that he would do whatever it takes to physically become the type of player that can some day make the NFL, figuring he was playing with house money since he’d already proved doubters wrong by landing a scholarship to an ACC school.
“Coming out of high school, I was lightly recruited,” Curry said. “Everybody began to doubt whether I could really fulfill my dreams of playing in the NFL and all the doubters are really what motivates in the weight room when you've got your last set coming up and somebody's telling you to get it done. You have to get it done because there are some people out there that believe you can't get it done.”
Upon his arrival at Wake Forest, Curry was too small to play as a freshman so he spent his natural freshman year working diligently in the weight room hoping to get big enough to make an impact as a redshirt freshman.
As in most everything else he set his mind to, Curry became a key contributor, starting 10 games as a redshirt freshman, making 45 tackles with a sack. Curry never looked back and became a four-year starter.
After a sophomore season in which he began to draw some attention for his 83 tackles, three sacks and interception, Curry went back to Fayetteville to see his family.
But when he arrived, he was stunned to find out he had no place to stay.
“I came home from college and my mom was telling me that we were being evicted and we didn't have anywhere to stay,” Curry said. “At that point, we didn't have the funds to get into another house.”
Curry went to stay with one of his closest friends as did his brothers and his mom went to stay with his great grandmother.
It was in that moment that Curry realized though he was working hard, he had to work harder, that though he wanted badly to make it, he needed to make it.
“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 of my life, where I realized I had to do something. Football was it.”
SOME FRIENDLY ADVICE
Curry spent that summer working to improve his game and before anyone knew it, he was one of the best linebackers in the country, nevermind the ACC.
In 13 games, Curry posted 99 tackles with 13.5 for loss and four interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.
With so many financial issues facing his family, Curry couldn’t help but think that turning pro was the best choice for him and those closest to him.
After a lengthy discussion with his mother, Curry got plenty of re-assurances that a senior year would be the best thing for all involved.
“She gave me her word that she could and she told me that my senior season would be the best one for her to enjoy and for me to play in,” Curry said. “She was able to maintain and she's doing great now.”
That was all Curry needed to hear to return though he only gained motivation from the NFL evaluation that said he was a third-round pick had he left early.
Before his senior season, he sought the advice of player about to accomplish his goal of reaching the NFL. That player was a defensive end from Virginia by the name of Chris Long.
“He had some words of advice for me into my senior season telling me to just stay focused and continue to play with the passion that I play with,” Curry said. “Everything else would take care of itself.”
The Rams drafted Long with the second pick of last year’s draft, making his NFL dreams a reality. When Long was a senior for the Cavaliers, he had noticed Curry as the pair developed a mutual respect for each others’ games.
Long wanted Curry to stay focused and hungry but also to know that it’s one thing to be talented enough to go to the NFL but that Curry could be so much more.
“Sometimes when you are that talented you can’t see it yourself,” Long said. “Sometimes, someone needs to tell you that. Sometimes hearing you have top 5 pick ability unlocks a whole different gear.”
Indeed. Curry quickly shifted to that different gear and posted a senior season for the ages. His 105 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and interception earned him the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker.
NFL scouts across the league began to drool over Curry’s ability and NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock has ranked Curry as the best player in this year’s draft, a far cry from his third-round grade a year ago.
“Aaron Curry might be the safest pick in the draft,” Mayock said. “He rushes well, he drops well, he's a fifth-year kid, he's mature. He's scheme-diverse, intelligent. I just think he's probably the safest guy out there.”
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
Draft analysts, opposing players and fans weren’t the only ones left awestruck by the complete package Curry presented.
Teammate Alphonso Smith calls Curry the best linebacker and defensive player in the draft “by far” and says Curry is the smartest football player in the draft.
“He's a beast, man,” Smith said. “If you talk to him or see him walking around, you probably won't think that. Just because of the way he carries himself and he's really quiet and very humble and really laid back. I call him 'The Humble Beast.' It's kind of hard to explain it. You have to see it to really understand it.”
By now, Curry is a surefire top five pick but the question has now become whether Curry will go No. 1 overall to Detroit. Like any player, Curry has set that as a goal as he arrived in Indianapolis for the scouting combine.
Curry will participate in the full linebacker work out on Monday after checking in at a chiseled 6’1 ½, 254 pounds on Saturday.
While Long has already established himself as a fan of Curry (though he also is a big proponent of former Virginia teammate Eugene Monroe), the Rams are believed to have great interest in Curry as well.
In fact, the Rams were scheduled to meet with Curry on Sunday evening. General manager Billy Devaney, without even speaking with Curry, wasn’t surprised to hear that Curry had so mesmerized the media on Saturday.
“Our interview schedule, we come over early and start looking at tape of them so we have some idea of the guy and Curry was the first one we put on and it was like ‘Wow, this guy is special, he is really good’ on tape,” Devaney said. “Then we started talking about the intangibles and to a man everybody said he is top of the line.”
For most of his college career, Curry played strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense where he was asked to do a variety of things. The biggest need for the Rams at linebacker is in the middle.
But Curry has no doubts that he can play any linebacker position in a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 for that matter.
“In the 4-3 I haven't play the mike at all,” Curry said. “I've played it probably five or
six times at practice, but I knew it like the back of my hand. I knew the footwork, the run fits. Just to be able to stand behind a nose tackle would be awesome.”
Most NFL personnel types seem to agree with Curry’s take on his ability to play any of the linebacker positions.
“We talked about that,” Devaney said. “He’s athletic, I think he’s like 255 pounds, he has the size to play inside, he has the athletic ability to play either (spot) outside. He’s a tackling machine. That adds to his value, he really can play any of those positions.”
FACE OF A FRANCHISE
Curry will have interviewed with many teams by the time he’s done here. The football stuff won’t be an issue because he already has plenty of game tape to speak for itself.
Beyond the talking that film can do on his behalf, there’s no doubt that Curry will be able to wow teams with his own gift of gab.
Like when Curry gets the chance to recount his journey to this moment and the hurdles he cleared to get here.
“Those are the moments that you think about in the fourth quarter when there's a play that needs to be made and you know have the opportunity to provide for your family for the rest of their lives,” Curry said.
And given that chance to provide, what is Curry’s first move?
“(The) first thing on the list is whatever mom says, house, car, anything she needs.”
That opportunity is fast approaching, now all Curry has to do is go through a workout and explain to teams how he fits in. So, what can Curry tell teams to make his case that he should be their guy?
“I want them to know that my personality and my character is contagious,” Curry said. “I'm a hard-worker on and off the field. I love the game of football and the environments I’ve been in, everybody's experienced that.
“They realize that when Aaron Curry steps in the weight room, he's serious. He's working hard and he's going to go until the whistle blows. You’re going to have to drag Aaron Curry out of the weight room. You’re going to have to drag Aaron Curry off the practice field, out of the film room. You’re going to have to tell Curry to chill out on some charities and community service because you've got practice today. That's just the type of person I am. I have some dreams of doing some special things as an NFL player.”
Like every other football dream he’s had, file this one under another that’s about to become a reality.
Re: Curry Overcomes Obstacles on way to Top
This is the guy i want! What i read about him is wonderful. His work ethic and things he does for the community is just what saint louis needs. He can be the man in the middle for our D for years to come. Curry was a lil guy at 195 lbs his senior year of high school and barely had any offers. Now standing 6'2"/254 lbs just shows how strong his work ethic and dedication is. Reading things that say your gonna have to drag him out of the weight room and off the practice field just make smile. He is a high character guy that spags would love.
If we dont pick Curry I want Crabtree. I feel that we can get a solid OT in the 2nd round.
Re: Curry Overcomes Obstacles on way to Top
Interesting. This guy attracts me more and more, and I like the idea of him as our MLB. It would definitely make our linebacker corps more feared, with Curry, Witherspoon and Pisa/someone else. This guy has the whole package. Good in both pass and run protection, plays smart and aggresively, and is a tackle machine.
If we pick this guy instead of Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, I would not complain one bit. Instead, I will be jumping out of my couch, drink spilling in my hand and shouting in glee.
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