"I played quarterback in high school coming out of Lubbock, TX," said Curtis. "Texas Tech recruited me as an athlete and I ended up playing safety for four years."
Curtis didn't just play safety for the Red Raiders, he excelled. He started all four years while earning all-conference honors his last three years and All-American honors in each of his last two seasons.
"We're looking for great athletes," explained Curtis. "Normally, your best athlete is your quarterback, your running back, or sometimes a wide receiver. If he shows toughness and he can move, then he can help us. A high school quarterback or running back is usually a great leader. They are going to be someone who is competitive and they enjoy playing the game. You want as many athletes as you can get. They can't all play quarterback or running back. We want football players."
Curtis is a great example of how a high school quarterback can go on to play at a different position in college and in the NFL. "If you embrace the change," he added. "You will be successful. I just wanted to play and I got that opportunity at free safety."
Curtis spent three seasons with the 49ers and the Texans in the NFL. "I was drafted by the 49ers," he said. "I tore my PCL in the second preseason game. In my second year, I tore my ACL. I ended up signing with Houston, and then I went to NFL Europe for a year. My body wasn't responding so I decided to begin my coaching career."
While coaching the secondary for Navarro Junior College, Curtis' team finished 21-2 and won the conference championship both seasons. Navarro also led the country in interceptions under Curtis. Curtis recruited the Dallas/Fort Worth area for Navarro College. He will bring that experience with him to Louisiana Tech as Bulldogs Head Coach Sonny Dykes and his staff look to continue Tech's success in recruiting the area.
At Louisiana Tech, Coach Curtis' recruiting area includes everything between I-20 and I-45. In addition to his East Texas area, Curtis recruits Fort Worth, Mansfield, Arlington, and up to Carrollton. This area includes football powers like Carroll High School in Southlake, TX and Trinity High School in Euless, TX. Curtis is also responsible for recruiting junior colleges in the region such as Trinity Valley in Athens, TX and Navarro College.
Curtis talked about the importance of locating the right talent in the junior college ranks. "It's extremely important," he said. "If a guy had a chance to sign at the BCS level, you automatically improve your talent by bringing him in. They have a need to play right away. They only have two years, so they don't want to go somewhere and sit on the bench for two years."
With the high profile recruits in the junior college system, Curtis said there is one factor that usually keeps those players from signing with a Division One school out of high school. "Usually scores," he explained. "Maybe they got a late start. They might have gotten in a hole and didn't take it seriously until there junior or senior year and it was too late."
With his experience working with the junior college athlete and his personal experience as a high profile recruit, Curtis says he wants to share his knowledge with today's recruits. "I'm going to be honest and explain the situation," added Coach Curtis. "I'm not going to lie. What you see is what you get. I care about these kids whether they sign with Louisiana Tech or somewhere else. I want them to be the best they can be. People appreciate honesty and I'm just going to be myself."
With veteran players Terry Carter, Josh Victorian, and Olajuwan Paige already on board, Curtis inherited a solid group of cornerbacks. Despite their experience, the unit has seen significant improvement under Coach Curtis. "These guys have worked," said Curtis. "They've done what I've asked them and they've embraced everything that I've taught them. They're becoming more consistent every day. This offense has been great for them because we throw it so much. They are really playing with confidence."
Depth is no issue for Tech in the secondary. Junior College transfers Justin Goodman and Ryan Williams added help at an already solid position. "The guys have taken them in and they have helped coach them up," explained their coach. "We are playing a lot of man to man. We are going to roll guys in and out. We have to go full speed. It's not about how many plays each guy gets, but it's the quality of the play each time they go on the field."
Coach Curtis talked about what it takes for his cornerbacks to be successful. "They have to be great with their eyes," he added. "They have to be disciplined. Most of a team's big plays come in the passing game. Our guys have to be physical and help against the run, but they can't fall asleep and get caught on a long pass."
Don't expect any member of Louisiana Tech's secondary to fall asleep under Coach Curtis or Defensive Coordinator Tommy Spangler. They have their unit playing at a high level in 2010.