Bill Curry has lived a life in sports, starting from his days as a player in youth baseball in College Park, dreaming of one day taking the mound for the Yankees, to a prolific football career at Georgia Tech and then in the NFL with the Packers and Colts, among others.
He continued as a coach at Georgia Tech, followed by stints at Alabama and Kentucky. He accepted the coaching job at Georgia State in 2008 and was charged with building the program.
Curry, who turned 70 last month, will coach his last game on Saturday when the Panthers play at Maine. He announced in August that he was retiring after the season so that he could spend more time with his wife, Carolyn, their children and grandchildren.
He has thousands of memories, but he said there are six that stand out. I’m going to share one a day with you, today through Saturday.
Esteemed Colleague Steve Hummer is also working on a couple of stories about Curry that will run later this week. I’ll share the links when they appear. They promise to be special.
Anyway, here’s the third special memory Curry shared, in his words:
Another huge moment was to report to the Green Bay Packers two weeks late because of the college football all-star game, knowing I was behind, knowing I was the last draft choice.
That first 48 hours, I got there on a Saturday afternoon for the intra-squad scrimmage.
The first thing that happened was the airlines lost my reservation. I got to Milwaukee and was told ‘we’ll get you on the next one tomorrow morning.’
I went ballistic.
I told the guy, ‘I’m going to be late to Vince Lombardi’s training camp. I’ve got your name and I’ve got your company’s name. I’ll make sure he knows who it was that lost my reservation.’
That son of a gun chartered a single-engine craft and they flew me to Manawa, Wisconsin and they drove me to St. Norbert college and I was 15 minutes early.
That happened. That was the power of Vince Lombardi in that state. He was waiting for me.
I started walking over to dinner and a guy walked up beside me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Bart Starr.’
That was life-changing, just to hear those words.
I didn’t think veterans would speak to rookies and most of them didn’t but we were walking to dinner and he said, ‘Look, we have a really good minister at our church. I don’t know what faith you are but if you’d like to go to church with (my wife) and me we’d love to have you.’
I was Methodist and they were Methodist. I needed to go to church bad.
I went. I had gone a slight concussion against Cleveland the night before. It was a little blurry, but it was surreal, like something out of a Spielberg dream scene.
The intrasquad game I didn’t play. I went into snap field goals and Ray Nitschke walked up and said I’m going to give you a shot. It rained cats and dogs.
I remember it was the first time I had ever heard the word inundated. Vince walked up in front of the squad and said ‘Well, the field may be inundated but we’re going to play anyhow because the people are out there.’
So we did the intra-squad thing.
I got up the next morning. I had forgotten to take sheets and pillows so I lay there on that plastic thing passing for a mattress and there was a loud rap on my door at 7 o’clock the next morning. I thought it was another one of the rookies. I don’t remember how I greeted the caller.
It was Lombardi.
He said, ‘You are lucky because you can back up at center and at middle linebacker’ — because that’s what I did in college — ‘and you can longsnap and you can cover kicks so you have a chance to make our team but we are going to start you with the offense and I’m going to teach it to you know.’
We sat down, just the two of us, and he drew up on a yellow legal pad the entire Green Bay Packers system over the next two hours. I’ll never forget that.
‘You got that Bill? That’s an even call.’
‘I got it, coach.’
Johnny Unitas teaches the power of practice
Super Bowl V and the power of the team
The All-American Bowl and the power of leadership
– Doug Roberson, AJC and AJC.com. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu