Bill Curry is often asked why, at a time of life when most men can’t wait to ease into the mental couch of retirement, he STILL wants to be a football coach. And not just a coach of any team, but to start a college football program from scratch—to build at a place like Georgia State where nothing stood before he arrived.
Curry answered that question in the most personal and compelling way when he spoke to the Northside Athletes Foundation Wednesday night at the Marist School. The NAF (www.northsideathletes.com) was founded in 1990 with a core mission of using sports as an important tool to develop the character of young people.
It is a subject about which Curry is most familiar. He’s lived it. He’s coached it. He still feels very passionate about it. That is why, when other men are playing checkers or going fishing with their grandchildren, Curry is running around a hot practice field frantically trying to get Georgia State ready to play its first-ever football game against Shorter on Sept. 2 at the Georgia Dome.
He looked around the arena at Marist and asked all of his former players and current players to stand. More than a dozen men at various stages in life rose to their feet and looked proudly at their coach.
“Some of these men I coached 30 years ago,” said Curry, who was the head coach at Georgia Tech (1980-86), Alabama (1987-89) and Kentucky (1990-96). “Some of these men I coached today.”
On Wednesday Curry met individually with 27 of his Georgia State football players. Football was discussed but most of the time was spent talking about academics and life. On those fronts some of managing better than others. Curry got a summer job as a camp counselor when he was 15 years old and at that moment he knew he would spend his life working with and influencing the lives of young people. He still approaches that aspect of the job with the zeal of a missionary.
“This time around I think I’ve learned something important,” said Curry, who worked as a college football analyst for ESPN for 10 years before taking the job at Georgia State. “Before there were times when I was fixated on the next game and trying to get the next win. This time I am really enjoying the process.”
Spring practice is over. Final exams are coming. Then there is the nervous summer where every coach hopes there are no issues or problems that will negatively impact the team. Georgia State’s first football team will reassemble in August and have 29 more practices. Then it will be show time. There are seven home games at the Georgia Dome on a maiden schedule that concludes with a trip to (gulp!) Alabama, the defending national champion.
Curry worked there 20 years ago and led the Crimson Tide to the No. 2 national ranking in 1989. He was named the SEC Coach of the Year. The year before, however, a brick was thrown through his office window after a Homecoming loss to Ole Miss. It will be an interesting return to Tuscaloosa for Curry.
But Nov. 20 is a lifetime away. May draws near and it will be time to start looking to the next recruiting class willing to buy into Curry’s dream. There are speeches to make, money (lots of it) that must be raised and alumni to be inspired and excited about what Georgia State could become. It is the life of a coach and Bill Curry, like all great leaders, is convinced that he still has something to give and one more team to build.
Curry played for Bobby Dodd, Vince Lombardi, and Don Shula. As a center, he snapped the ball to Billy Lothridge, Bart Starr, and John Unitas. He has coached at Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Kentucky. He’s had an incredible journey. Georgia State has become the next leg of that journey and Bill Curry has decided that he is going to enjoy every minute of it.
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