May 6, 2009

Doubters still motivate Curran

Rennie Curran may have the most positive outlook of any player on the Georgia football team.

With a non-stop smile, Curran happily goes about his business, whether it's cementing his status as one of the top linebackers in the SEC, or doing what he can to mentor to youngsters in and around the Northeast Georgia area.

Yes, the Bulldog junior is your proverbial "Good Guy."

But there is one thing that gets under his skin.

As Curran watched the recent NFL Draft, he couldn't help but wonder if some of the negative comments about his height he once heard in high school will haunt him once again.

"That kind of talk has always driven me," Curran said. "No matter how much I dream I'll get a couple of inches, I'm always going to wake up 5-10 every day. They'll just have to watch me and watch the film because that's what's going to matter at the end of the day."

As if Curran needed any more motivation.

At Brookwood, many thought that he was too small to play on the big-time college stage, something he quickly disproved as a freshman and last season was in on 115 tackles, the most for any Georgia player since 1998.

Don't be surprised if NFL scouts one day learn the same lesson.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it (the NFL)," Curran said. "You've got guys like Stafford (Matthew) and Moreno (Knowshon) who had awesome careers here and just watching them and other linebackers go through the entire process, it's hard not to wonder. When you come here, that's part of your dream, not only to win a national championship but to have a chance to play past these days."

"It is something you think about. But right now, all I'm really trying to do is focus on what got me to this point and that's hard work in the weight room, hard work in the film room and dedication to my team."

Curran has also been getting plenty of advice.

He calls Carolina Panthers and former Bulldog standout Thomas Davis a "big brother" and counts Panthers linebacker Thomas Beason among his close friends.

Former Bethune-Cookman and Gwinnet County resident Steve Baggs, a linebacker in the Canadian Football League, also has Curran's ear.

"(Baggs) had a camp, a mentoring camp and I've gotten with him and he's showed me a lot of things," Curran said. "He's played in the league (NFL) and he's given me that perspective of what the NFL is like from a business aspect."

But it's some words of wisdom that Baggs passed on during his Brookwood days that still ring true with Curran.

"He's the one who told me not to worry about my weight, just focus on making plays and things like that," Curran said. "I was worried about a lot of things coming into Georgia as a freshman. I didn't know what to expect, but he opened my eyes."

Seeing his former teammates take their first steps in professional football was something he'll never forget.

"I watched a lot. Every time one of my teammates got picked, I felt I was going right along with them," Curran said. "I was just so happy to see those guys make it. To watch (Matthew) Stafford, Knowshon (Moreno), Mohamed (Massaquoi) … to see Aaron Curry on there crying … I just kept telling myself this must be overwhelming."

Oh, and that notion that "undersized" linebackers can't make it big in the NFL: Curran was quick to give some examples.

Among them were Gary Brackett (5-11) of the Indianapolis Colts, Ernie Sims (6-0) of the Detroit Lions and former Zach Thomas (5-11) of the Kansas City Chiefs, three players who have made solid careers for themselves.

One of Curran's early coaches and mentor, former Atlanta Falcon Jesse Tuggle was just 5-11 and he played for 14 years.

"People tend to try and put me in a category, but it's not like I'm the first to do this (play linebacker)," Curran said. "It's almost like that (his size) is the only thing some people can find to point out about me. 'He's an amazing player, but.' There's always that but. I know that's always going to be there, but I'm going to keep working hard, keep having a good attitude and stay optimistic. I plan on using all my assets to my advantage."

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