Rick Millians

Rick Millians

This is a story about a former Georgia Tech football player named Bill Curry.

"I played center for 20 years," Curry said. “Every time I tried to say something, somebody would say, 'Curry, your job is to hike the ball and shut up.' "

He spoke at the Georgia Writers Museum this past week and signed copies of his book: "Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle."

Curry most famously played for Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers and Don Shula's Baltimore Colts.

He hiked the ball to some of the best quarterbacks of all-time, including: Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Joe Namath, Bob Griese and Roger Staubach.

He did it as a 235-pound center who was the next-to-the-last player picked in the 1964 NFL Draft. Lombardi took one look at him on his first day as a Packer and told him to gain 10 pounds — in the next week. He never did, but he had a 12-year NFL career and played in two Super Bowls.

He later became head coach at Tech, Alabama, Kentucky and was the first coach at Georgia State.

I want to start with a story Curry shared about former Georgia coach Mark Richt, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Richt was honored at halftime of a recent Georgia game.

Curry had invited the then-Bulldogs head coach to speak at his church. Curry knew head coaches were busy people, even in the offseason, so he gave Richt plenty of advance notice. Richt accepted. 

But a couple of weeks later, Richt called Curry to say he couldn't come because his Georgia assistants had been invited to play golf at Augusta National and they wanted him to come along. Curry told Richt he understood, not to worry about it.

A few days later, Richt called Curry again. Richt said he'd been thinking about it and said he'd promised Curry he would be there to speak and he would keep his promise. Playing golf would have to wait. 

Another coach who kept his promise helped shape Curry's career — as a player, coach, author and motivational speaker. His name was Bobby Dodd.

It was assumed that Curry would be a Georgia Bulldog. His dad was from Athens. Curry was born on the Georgia campus. But his high school sweetheart (and future wife) was planning to attend Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.

Curry said he wasn't the best student, but even he could figure out that he'd be a lot closer to her by attending Georgia  Tech. His guidance counselor said he had "frolicked" through high school and advised him not to go to Tech.

But Bobby Dodd — Georgia  Tech's legendary coach from 1945 to 1966 — took a chance on Curry. Dodd made a promise to Curry, like he did to many other Tech players. 

"Dodd had a great speech — and I do mean great speech," Curry said, "and he gave it to us on the first day of every year."

Dodd would say: "Men, if you're not a good football player, that's not your fault. That's my fault because I brought you here. … I will love you, discipline you, keep you here, and encourage you. I will make sure that if you work hard enough, you will get your degree. I want every one of you to graduate."

Dodd had three basic rules:

1. Go to church.

2. Go to class.

3. Do not drink, carouse, or break curfew.

Break any of those, and you were gone.

Curry said his coach at College Park High School, Bill Badgett, used to say that football is life, marked off in 10-yard increments. He'd tell his players they were going to get knocked down again and again, and they had a choice. They could wallow in self pity, or they could get back up. 

I highly recommend Curry's book. 

If anybody ever got knocked down, he did. 

But he always got back up.

Rick Millians, a 1970 Baldwin High graduate, worked at newspapers in Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina before retiring. Reach him at: rdmillians@aol.com








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