“Linebacker Rennie Curran:
From Liberia to the Brink of NFL Stardom”
You said in our briefing that you grew up in Atlanta. What was your childhood like?
My mother came from Liberia on scholarship to Emory University in Atlanta to get her Master’s degree.
My father came once she finished and opened a shoe repair shop not too long after. Growing up; I saw them working really hard. I was born the same year that the civil war started in Liberia. I’ve seen my parents send a lot of money, clothes and other things back home and also help bring family over here to the states. Of course, I had to share my room, but it was always a humbling experience seeing them work so hard. At the age of 10, I moved from the city of Atlanta out to the suburbs and began playing
football. Moving to the suburbs with a new group of friends around changed everything.
Was football always a #1 passion of yours, from Pop Warner to now?
No, actually my mother got me into music. From the first time I played football I automatically loved it, but the first thing I thought of was music. I played the piano and took lessons in that, then began playing the drums in church, along with the orchestra in middle school all the way to high school. Music and football are both disciplines that take a lot of practice and there are only a few people at the top.
Did you play other sports that were helpful to your development as a football player?
Yes. Early on I played soccer. I ran track and field to help me with my form. I wrestled which helped me when using my hands, body and leverage to get off a block and make the tackle.
What was your reaction to signing your first pro football contract?
It was surreal being in my living room with my whole family around me and finally getting the call later that night. I was about to go to sleep not thinking I’d be picked that day, but the phone rang late and it was Jeff Fisher (former Tennessee Titans head coach). To think that I had worked so hard for so many years and that dream I had was finally coming true, then to see my mom and everybody crying. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had, along with seeing my name pop up on ESPN. I looked at my phone
and it was like a slot machine, like I hit the jackpot. Just blowing up! I had like 300 text messages in the first 2 minutes. It was nuts! I slept that night and I was on cloud 9.
What are your goals outside of playing football?
I’m trying to maximize my platform as a professional athlete. I majored in Business Management at University of Georgia, but still have to finish my degree since I left early after my junior year for the NFL. I am hoping to own my first business by the time I’m 30. I’m also doing public speaking for kids in churches, schools and for different organizations where I can share my story as an inspiration to others.
After my rookie season, I took my family with me back to Liberia. It was my first visit there, because I wasn’t able to go previously due to the civil war. It was an awesome experience! Everybody knew I was coming home, because there aren’t too many professional football players who are Liberian. When I got to the airport there was a lot of media. When I visited my mother’s village I saw people with amazing athletic talent, but without an outlet. It’s like playing backyard football, but never getting to play in an
organized recreational league, or for a high school team where you can get recognized by college scouts.
I want to have an academy where kids can get a quality education and have a chance to play soccer, the sport they love, also have the opportunity to be recruited to top notch colleges like I was. I’m 23 now, so the possibilities are endless.
Did you get butterflies in your first pro game? Who was it against?
Yeah, of course. It was against the Seattle Seahawks. Once I got onto the field and walked around I was ok after that. Picture playing in an atmosphere like the University of Georgia where we had 98,000 screaming fans every Saturday. You can’t get much better than that. The butterflies were completely gone when I ran down my first kickoff.
What’s the greatest benefit you get from the sport you love?
The platform that comes with the position I’m in. People recognize you and listen more, whether it’s young kids, or the CEO of a company. You get treated differently from the normal person.
Any organizations and charities that you support and would like to promote?
I work with the Boys and Girls Club that I used to be part of when I was growing up. Also, UNICEF in the past. Kids Play which is an international organization that sponsors kids. There are countless organizations I work with. I definitely give back, because so many people helped me growing up.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
Being that I grew up in the Atlanta area, I would have to say Michael Vick and Jamal Lewis (former Falcons quarterback and running back respectively). Also, Brian Dawkins (retired Pro-Bowl safety) because he was always laying that wood. Definitely Ray Lewis (All-Pro linbacker) who I got to know on a different level. I’d always hear negative things about my height. Jessie Tuggle (retired veteran linebacker) is one of my mentors. As I grew up and began playing linebacker, a lot of people started comparing me to him because he was a versatile, successful NFL veteran; same time considered to be an “under-sized” linebacker.
Who is the one player you can’t stand competing against the most?
Tim Tebow. When you watch him on film he doesn’t do the typical things a quarterback should do. He stares down his receivers and doesn’t always have the best throwing technique, but he’s an intense competitor who seems to find a way to win. On film, you look at him like, “Yeah, We can stop him”, but in the game he finds a way to make a play. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
What’s your mindset going into training camp each season?
Be the best and show these guys why I belong here. Play with a relentless mentality like I’m not here to make friends. I have a family to feed and provide for, so I’m going to war. As long as I do my best; whatever the outcome is, I’m happy with it.
Who’s the one coach before you made it to the NFL who pushed you the most to succeed?
That’s my little league coach. My father was always working at his shoe repair shop, so my coach became like a second father to me. He took me to my first University of Georgia football game. He treated me like one of his own. By the time I was in 7th grade, my father lost his business and my mother got sick. Times were rough. C.E.S. (Competitive Edge Sports) is the facility that my little league coach got me into; the same one that trained Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey and others. If it weren’t for
him I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.
We see edits and sound bites from Hard Knocks on HBO, but how much time do you spend studying film? How long are practices?
In training camp it’s about 3 to 4 hours a day. A lot of the game is mental and putting the time into the film room. Unless you’re a first round pick, it’s definitely a grind and your margin for error is Zero.
Practices are about 2 hours with a walk through on plays.
What advice do you give to the kids out there playing who want to follow in your footsteps?
Always do something to set yourself apart from your peers at each level, on and off the field. When I talk to the kids, I mention how much competition there is. You could be the best player in your high school, but in college everybody was the best in their high schools and in the NFL almost everyone was an All-American in college. Be willing to sacrifice. One thing I ask is, “What are you willing to give up getting to where you want to be?” Make sure that you’re well-rounded and have good character.
When they interview you, they’ll bring you into a suite and put you on the hot seat in front of the Owner, General Manager and all the coaches. They’ll want to know about your life. Show them you can handle yourself and your business off the field. In the end, just being a good football player doesn’t mean much.
What’s your perspective on the controversy surrounding concussions and players who play after getting concussed?
I believe the league will continue to come up with safer equipment and better ways to monitor concussions.
Do you ever think about life after football and the shape you’ll be in?
I just hope I’m in my right mind after all the hits have been absorbed. I definitely want to be able to walk right, play with my children and enjoy my time with family.
If you entered the political arena, what would be your #1 objective for Atlanta?
I’m really passionate about the youth and stopping them from going down the wrong path in life, so I’d work towards improving their lives with the involvement of mentors who’d provide better direction.
Describe what Pat Tillman and his ultimate sacrifice meant to you as a football player.
That took everything in him to make that sacrifice. The way he did it with his values; I totally respect him as a man for the sacrifice that he and many others made, no matter their reasoning. I commend him. He’ll always be a hero to a lot of people.
What’s one thing on your bucket list that you haven’t done yet?
I want to test drive all my favorite sports cars, even if I can’t buy them.
Since we’re talking about cars; what’s the first car you bought after you signed your contract?
It was a Dodge Challenger. I got a great deal on it and it was well within my means.
How do you want to be remembered when it’s all said and done?
An athlete with great character who inspired people and made a difference in the world. I think everybody wants those things at the end of the day, not just the money.
Give the readers 4 words that describe you best.
Humble, optimistic, determined and resilient.
Since you mentioned success; what’s being “successful” in your eyes?
No matter what place you have in society, the idea is to be a positive influence and also a blessing to others. If you use your resources and influence in a positive way it’s always fulfilling. Next thing you know, you have someone 10 years from now telling you how important your guidance was to them.
That’s the feeling I want to have.
Professional Athlete/Philanthropist/Public Speaker/Entrepreneur
Contact for Interviews/Booking Jacque Schauls – Coda Grooves Entertainment
Article written by: Bill Oxford, October 2012 email@example.com