By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets) | Inside The Chart
You can point to his 58 tackles, or his 29-consecutive starts, or his single-digit uniform number, or his status as Georgia Tech’s venerable sixth-year senior. But the truest illustration of David Curry’s impact on the Georgia Tech defense can be found at practice, away from the ball, 30 yards down from the line of scrimmage.
The club has grown since the season began. Originally it was just Curry, Tech’s 6-2, 230-pound linebacker, kneeling behind the play the Yellow Jackets’ defense was running. Curry would watch along, silent and solitary, absorbing every detail. A self-described visual learner, he does it to get as many “mental reps” as he can during the week. He first picked up the habit as a player at Buford High School in Buford, Ga., then brought it with him to Tech.
“Earlier in my career, if you weren’t a ‘1’ or a ‘2,’ you didn’t necessarily get many reps. That wasn’t going to stop me from learning. That wasn’t going to stop me from getting my development. So I would stand in the back and I would – it’s funny – I would literally act like I was in the game, about 30, 40 yards back, and I would be going through my plays. I would get the call and I would go through it,” Curry said.
“I just continued to do that even when I moved up to a ‘2,’ even when I moved up to a ‘1.’”
David Curry looks on during a Georgia Tech practice this season.
So no, Curry isn’t one to chase butterflies or swap recipes when he’s not taking a rep. Tech’s mantra of “100% effort, 100% of the time” doesn’t just apply to when a player is on the field.
“It’s really good to know that somebody out there running the show for us, getting us lined up, understands the game plan, understands why we’re trying to do what we’re trying to do, and executes that at a very high level,” said head coach Geoff Collins.
As the season wore on, Curry’s defensive teammates started to take notice. Before long he wasn’t alone. Cole Neuber came over. So did Taylor McCawley. Freshman linebacker Tyson Meiguez joined the congregation, picking Curry’s brain for insights.
Veterans began making their way over too.
“The time I realized it probably was [before] the second game of the season. He was the only one back there watching. I’m like, ‘What is David doing?’” said safety Juanyeh Thomas, who’s since become a regular attendee.
“David is like a player-coach. He’s the person you can ask questions to if you don’t know, because he’s already done it and he knows everybody’s job. Going back there with him helps us a lot,” he added.
Linebacker Quez Jackson, Georgia Tech’s leading tackler, has also become a regular – and an admirer of Curry’s example.
“When I see David come in here and he works every day, that makes me want to go. He knows that he has a responsibility out here. When the young guys see that, we fall behind that,” Jackson explained.
Nowadays, anywhere from 10 to 15 players gather near Curry, taking stock of the play and pantomiming their role in it. Charlie Thomas, Tariq Carpenter, Derrik Allen – pretty much the entire defensive back seven comes in and out depending on whether they’re on the field. What began as a one-man watch party now rolls double-digit deep, each player taking his own mental rep.
Curry didn’t expect his routine to catch on. He never suggested anyone join him. “Club Curry” grew slowly, organically. But teammates saw the way it helped his performance and readiness on game day, and they wanted to reap the benefits for themselves.
“That’s the kind of legacy that I want to leave for myself, as a guy that was always doing the right thing and doing the extra [work] to help other guys. Now we’ve gotten more than 10, 15 people standing back there, and we’re all constantly talking about the play. So now, you only don’t have guys on the sideline. Now you have guys in the end zone encouraging [each other],” he said.
Dec. 2, 2020: Georgia Tech football student-athletes media availability (Ryan Johnson, Dontae Smith and David Curry)
It’s an extension of the growth Collins has seen from Curry since he and his staff took over in December 2018.
“He was such a hard worker, and so driven and so passionate at a ridiculously high level, and a lot of times he couldn’t relate to a lot of his teammates because he couldn’t understand that a lot of them didn’t have that same drive and passion and work ethic. Now he’s formed great relationships with his teammates, and those relationships have allowed him to motivate them, connect with them, and then other guys around him started elevating their game – film study habits, preparation habits, and effort-at-practice habits because of those relationships and his example,” Collins said.
The downfield meetings continued this week as Georgia Tech prepared to face NC State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh (4 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Learfield IMG College). They’ll continue into the final games of the season. And they’ll almost certainly continue once Curry’s playing days are over, the tradition passed down to the next group of players looking to gain an edge in their preparation.
If the Yellow Jackets continue their climb, it’s a view they’ll all come to savor.
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