SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Patience Pays off for Ronald Curry

How long ago was it that Ronald Curry was everyone's all-American? He was one of the country's top football recruits as a QB out of Hampton (Va) HS, and he was one of the top 10 basketball recruits as a PG. He went to North Carolina, because he was told he could play both sports. The Heels let him do so, but Curry did not find success in either sport. Yes, he started at QB, and yes at one point he started in 21 straight games as a PG, but he starred in neither. Curry fell victim to the Darwinism of major-college sports, namely, that in Division I-A you cannot play two well. Perhaps you can play two sports or even three in Division III, but in Division I-A the two-sport player is fighting against PGs who hoop year round and QBs who train as QBs year round. The result, even the most gifted of athletes, of which Curry is one, would struggle. The one-sport only kids are that good.

So Ronald Curry came out of HS figuring he would earn the huge bucks in either the NBA or the NFL, and he came out of college more of a suspect than anything else. As this article in the SF Examiner indicates, his road to a solid professional career has been rocky at best. First, he struggled at QB, then he returned kicks and played WR, then he got cut, and then re-signed. Or something like that. Not exactly the resume you'd have expected to see from Curry when he was such a blue-chip prospect coming out of HS.

But he didn't quit. He kept at it, and that's where this story is so great. Because Raiders coach Norv Turner just named Curry the team's #3 WR behind the fleet (and healthy) Jerry Porter and the all-time best, Jerry Rice. Turner probably cut Tim Brown, another future Hall of Famer, to make room for Curry, and, if Curry excels in his new role, he'll be the odds-on favorite to replace Rice when Rice retires (and he's expected to retire after this season). Sounds like a nice career path for a young wideout.

It's been a long, hard road for Ronald Curry. It has been a far easier road for his UNC hoops and gridiron teammate, Julius Peppers, but Peppers clearly was a football player first, and he hooped for the varsity because they found him banging with the recruited hoopsters in pick-up games, liked what they saw and needed some muscle inside. Peppers wasn't an NBA-level talent, more like a Tony Gonzalez on the hardwood (and Gonzalez, you will recall, could ball -- he played a mean forward for Cal) than, say, Rasheed Wallace. In other words, Peppers hooped for one reason that Dr. Naismith created basketball in the first place -- to stay in shape and have some fun. And now Peppers is a start DE for a Super Bowl contender, the Carolina Panthers. Just as everyone predicted he would be.

It's hard to say what people predicted for Ronald Curry after his senior year at Carolina. I'm sure that many probably said, "great athlete, just not good enough in either sport." And, for a while, it looked like they would be right.

But Ronald Curry was patient, didn't listen to the doubters, worked harder, and now his patience is being rewarded. So the book on Ronald Curry now has tons of promise. Perhaps it started out slow, but it could give all of those who read it a whopping finish.

Patience and potential. Not a bad combination.

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