Curran already making impact in Athens

ATHENS – Rennie Curran's parents know little about football.

But they are well versed in battle.

Rennie Curran Sr. and Josie Curran moved to Atlanta from war torn Liberia before their only son was born, but that didn't stop the bloodshed from two separate civil wars that lasted a total of 11 years from reaching their suburban home.

When Rennie Curran Jr., now a true freshman linebacker at Georgia, was growing up, the Curran home was a safe house for friends and family seeking refuge from the strife. At one point, more than 12 people lived in the home, Josie Curran said.

"I had to give up my bed some nights so it was just a real humbling experience," Rennie Curran said.

That experience has never left Curran, nor has the lesson his parents have drilled into him again and again.

"Anybody you meet just treat them with kindness," Josie Curran said. "He never knows when he will be a blessing to that person or they will be a blessing to him."

Georgia coach Mark Richt hasn't stopped talking about Curran since he signed with the team in February.

"He's a beautiful kid," Richt said. "He's a humble kid who's just so thrilled to be at Georgia it's unbelievable. You can't not like Rennie unless there's something wrong with you."

In the first days of his collegiate career, Curran told his teammates what it means to him to be a Bulldog.

"I told them how I used to watch guys like Thomas Brown and Coach Richt and all those guys on TV, and the next thing I know Coach Richt is in my house eating Liberian food," he said. "I told them I don't want to take this opportunity for granted because you only get so many chances."

That lesson was driven home when his former teammate, Brookwood quarterback Daniel Peek, died in a car accident. It was later discovered Peek had cocaine in his system the night of accident.

"He was a good guy, but sometimes we get careless with our opportunities," Curran said. "I just talked about that."

Curran is determined not to let his opportunity go by. He has worked his way to second team weak side linebacker behind Darius Dewberry and worked is the key word.

"He's more excited than most everybody out here," senior linebacker Brandon Miller said.

The Currans have told Rennie what it could mean for their family here and in Liberia if he can turn his football talent into a professional career. Josie Curran earned her master's degree after coming to the United States and is a nurse at Grady Memorial Hospital. Rennie Curran Sr. ran a shoe store for 15 years and now works jobs at Wal-Mart and delivering newspapers.

"They put a lot of pressure on me because we're not in the best financial situation and the kind of opportunity I've been given, they're like, ‘Don't waste it,'" he said. "They're like I could be the one to bring us out of poverty, our whole entire family. They kind of put that on my shoulders."

It's a heavy load, but Curran's powerful frame is holding up well so far.

"Sometimes it kind of does (worry me)," he said. "I just take it to heart and every time I get tired or something, I use that to drive me and push me, think about how my mom is working hard, my dad is working hard."

Curran is listed as 5-foot-11, although 5-9 is a more accurate appraisal. But he's always been short and it hasn't stopped him yet.

"His height?" Miller asked incredulously. "Have you seen how big he is?"

That's a good point. Curran is 202 pounds and already one of the strongest players on the team. Strength always has been Curran's trump card said his mother, who worried when her 10-year-old son wanted to play football.

"When I saw the boys bigger than him in size, I didn't know he had that much strength," she said. "When I saw him play I was really amused. He was always looking stronger than most of them. He loved the game so much that I couldn't say anything to him."

So she just prayed, and prayed, and prayed for his safety. So far, so good. He blossomed into a star at Brookwood High School, where he was credited with an almost unbelievable 198 tackles as a junior.

"He's a tackle maker," Richt said. "He got a million tackles in high school, kind of these unreal numbers. We talk about how we want our linebackers to hunt, go hunt and strike somebody. He's got a nice knack for that."

Curran is all-around nice, pleasant to everyone he meets from teammates to support staff to media members.

"My mental mindset coming in was to stay as humble as possible, just try to get along with everybody," he said. "I want to earn the respect of the coaches and my teammates and do whatever I could not to be disrespectful at all in any way, that was my mentality, just to help the team out, and just work as hard as possible."

"I'm glad," his mother said, "that he's been following what we tried to tell him."

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