Conversation With J.T. Curtis

John Curtis Christian School produced former SMU standouts Reggie Dupard and Vic Viloria, and the Mustangs are recruiting a couple of current Patriots as well. talked with legendary Curtis head coach J.T. Curtis today. Read further to get the details from this exclusive interview.

J.T. Curtis is closing in on 500 career victories as head coach of John Curtis Christian School in River Ridge, Louisiana. He has 23 state titles to his credit and owns more wins than all but one coach nationwide. The legendary coach will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches on June 26th and he was ready to give credit for his accomplishments to anyone other than himself.

"There's no adequate words to describe it," Curtis said. "So many people deserve the same honor, in order for me to have received it. It's very humbling, because I wouldn't have been able to achieve this without the efforts of many, many people. I really have a deep appreciation for all of those people in my life that have contributed to my success.

"It's been so much fun working with my family and friends. My brother, Leon Curtis, is the defensive coordinator and his three sons - along with my two sons - work with me. We also have two nephews on the coaching staff and our offensive line coach played at Curtis and has been on the staff since the mid-70's. The family connection makes working conducive to winning. We've been able to keep our focus, with one goal and one direction."

When one thinks of John Curtis running backs, former SMU great Reggie Dupard always comes to mind.

"Reggie was a special kid in high school and he is a special man now," Curtis said. "His work with disturbed youth speaks to his character and integrity. He's had many accomplishments on and off the field and he's always given back to the community. That's what this process (with football) is all about - to help kids become productive citizens. I've always teased Reggie that he needs to move back down here so I can coach his son and daughter, but I think they're firmly entrenched in the Dallas area.

"Reggie set the benchmark athletically for what it takes to be a special back at Curtis. He brought so much toughness to the table, in addition to having a second gear and the ability to get separation from defenders. I remember that Reggie was at one of Joe McKnight's games, back when Joe was a sophomore or junior. Joe broke a 45-yard run and got caught downfield. Reggie walked over and told Joe that it was a nice run, but that he (Reggie) wouldn't have been caught on that play. Joe was just stunned."

Vic Vilora is another former Curtis player that went on to do outstanding things at SMU.

"Vic was a little undersized coming out of high school," said Curtis, "and I was having some trouble getting recruiters from the bigger programs to buy into him. Auburn had offered him, but then they backed off. One day, (former Auburn coach) Terry Bowden was at the school visiting Jonathan Wells and Vic knocked on my office door. He didn't know that we were in there and so Vic stepped back out and said that he'd talk to me later.

"When Terry saw Vic, you could see that a different look came over his face. The next day, another Auburn coach, Pete Jenkins - who is a good friend of mine - called me and said that Terry had come back to Auburn and watched Vic's tape again. He said that Auburn wanted to put the offer back on the table."

Curtis said that Viloria was intent on signing with the Mustangs.

"I told Pete that Vic had just committed to SMU. When one of our players commits to a school, we want him to stick with it, but we can't tell them that they have to do that. I called Vic into my office and told him about Auburn, and he said that he was sticking with SMU. He said that SMU had always wanted him. Vic went on to make a tremenous impression at SMU and that's what launched his career after football."

Two current John Curtis players, Seth Jones and Josh Hanberry, are on the SMU recruiting radar.

"Seth is a unique player," Curtis said. "He is an undersized rusher who comes off the edge. He's as good a rusher as anyone I've ever had, and he can also drop (into coverage) outside at linebacker. He's about 225 pounds and will probably top out at about 245 pounds. He's very bright.

"We moved him to middle linebacker some in the spring. He'll move around in different packages this season. The second day of the spring, we weren't having a full-blown scrimmage, but we were going at it pretty good. Seth was playing middle linebacker and one of our running backs, Torrey Pierce, shook him in the open field. There were a lot of oohs and aahs from people watching, which usually happens when somebody gets a move put on them. I told Seth not to worry about it, that he was in a new position (at MLB) and he wasn't defensive about it at all. He said that he was starting to feel that position. He stayed positive."

Hanberry, who has an offer from Navy, recently attended SMU camp and is receiving interest from the Mustangs as a slot receiver.

"Josh may be only 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds," said Curtis, "but he's a wide receiver that runs 4.4 to 4.5 and a 10.6 in the 100. He's just so explosive in the first 30 to 40 yards and he can make people miss once he gets the football in his hands.

"He is a 4.0 student who scored a 28 on his ACT. He learns the plays easily, as you would expect from someone with his intelligence. He'll be a real weapon for us this year. I was talking to someone the other day and they asked if we'll throw the football a little more this year. I said, yes, we'll throw it a 'little' more."

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