Mention Aaron Curry to any die-hard Seattle Seahawks fan, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is “bust.”
Some pundits consider Curry, the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, one of the biggest flops the Seahawks have ever drafted along with guys like Malik McDowell, John Moffitt, Kevin Norwood, and Terry Poole.
Curry, a Butkus Award winner from Wake Forest, never lived up to the hype.
He spent just four uneventful years in the National Football League.
While Curry has stayed out of the limelight for the most part, he’s now back with the Seahawks as a linebackers coach.
It just goes to show you sometimes life has a funny way of making you come back full circle.
Aaron Curry was born in Fayetteville, NC on April 6, 1986.
He grew up in a single-parent household with his mother Chris and older brothers Brandon and Christopher.
When Curry became a young adult, he got tattoos all over his body that represented his love for all three family members.
He attended Ezekiel Ezra (E.E.) Smith High School in Fayetteville.
Curry played linebacker and tight end for the E.E. Smith Golden Bulls.
— Retro Footy Shirts (@Style4youUK) January 20, 2020
The Curry family were vagabonds during Curry’s formative years.
They had no permanent residence in their neighborhood.
Chris Curry had been evicted, so she and her boys had to stay at other people’s houses.
Aaron Curry told 49ers.com in March 2009 he realized football was his escape from the hardships he and his family went through:
“One of the toughest feelings I had was coming home from school and not having anywhere to stay.”
“My.mom had been evicted and to know that any given moment anything can be stripped from you like that (was tough).”
“That was one of the biggest turning moments of my life, when I realized I had to do something – football was it.”
“I stayed with one of my best friends, my brothers stayed with their best friends and my mom stayed with my great grandma until we got things better.”
When Curry was a high school senior, he stood 6’2″ and weighed 195 pounds.
The Currys didn’t have a lot of food at home.
That was a potential issue for Curry’s mother, a high school science teacher who raised three boys.
Curry had to find ways and means to feed himself so he could build muscle and excel on the gridiron.
When they had eggs, Curry either boiled them or consumed them raw.
He also devoured peanut butter sandwiches and mashed potatoes whenever he could.
Curry told Sports Illustrated’s Jonathan Jones in 2017 the uncertainty of his family’s daily situation forced him to improvise on and off the field:
“I grew up not knowing or being guaranteed breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You eat school breakfast and lunch, but that wasn’t much.”
“That was probably the best thing that happened to me, because it forced me to develop a mindset.”
“I knew I’d be smaller than everybody as far as girth, so I had to have a different mindset. I had to approach everything differently.”
“I had to be a step faster, be more aggressive, know what I was doing to put myself in a position where I could dish out punishment even though I may have been outsized.”
Curry’s new mindset would help him evolve into a defensive phenom on the gridiron in the next four years.
College Days With The Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Aaron Curry flew under the radar when he was about to break into the college football ranks.
Only the East Carolina Pirates and Wake Forest Demon Deacons showed interest in the pride of Fayetteville, NC, per Jones.
Regardless of his choice, he’d stay in state for his college football career.
Curry piqued then-Demon Deacons linebackers coach Brad Lambert’s interest.
Lambert went to E.E. Smith High School to size up Curry in January 2005.
The Golden Bulls linebacker was in the weight room when Lambert showed up.
He received a scholarship from Lambert in the school’s front office.
The momentous occasion came just three weeks before national signing day.
Curry didn’t have to go too far from his old stomping grounds to get a great opportunity.
The Wake Forest campus is just 120 miles northwest of Fayetteville.
Nonetheless, Curry knew he had his work cut out for him.
His first order of business was adding more muscle to his frame so he could excel in Lambert’s linebackers corps.
Just like his high school days when he made good use of whatever food his family had, Curry also improvised at Wake Forest.
He hit the weights like a madman at the Demon Deacons’ training facility and followed the team’s student-athlete meal plan.
— Wakeforest FB Report (@wfu_fb_fanly) July 10, 2017
Even as a freshman, Curry didn’t let his guard down.
In fact, an older player even told him to take it easy at practice.
Curry couldn’t believe what he had heard:
“I’ll never forget being a freshman and an older guy tried to talk me out of being full speed at practice. I couldn’t grasp the concept. It didn’t make sense to me.”
“To me football was just football, whether you practicing or playing on Saturday.”
“I knew you couldn’t show up on Saturday and expect to be this great player. Well, I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t afford to.”
Curry went full throttle in practice and games.
His efforts paid huge dividends.
He helped the Demon Deacons earn berths in the 2006 ACC Championship Game and 2007 Orange Bowl.
Curry’s best season was the 2007 NCAA campaign.
He registered 63 solo tackles, three sacks, four interceptions, and three pick-sixes.
He eventually became a three-time All-ACC player at Wake Forest.
In his last two seasons alone, Curry registered 29.5 tackles for loss, per SI.com.
There was no doubt he was the best linebacker in college football during the 2008 season.
Curry winning the Butkus Award that year served as hard evidence.
— Wake Forest Football (@WakeFB) December 7, 2018
He finished his college football career with 209 solo tackles, 9.5 sacks, and six interceptions.
After earning his sociology degree at Wake Forest in 2008, Curry prepared for the next step in his football journey: the National Football League.
According to Jones, only three linebackers have been selected in the top four picks of the NFL Draft since 2000.
Aaron Curry was part of that elite group.
The other two were the then-Washington Redskins LaVar Arrington (second overall in 2000) and the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller (second overall in 2011).
For their part, the Seattle Seahawks made Curry the fourth overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft.
While Curry made a bit of NFL history that year, he was the only one among the three linebackers who faded into oblivion.
Arrington was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Redskins.
On the other hand, Miller snagged Super Bowl 50 MVP honors.
He helped the Broncos win their third Super Bowl trophy while giving future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning a memorable send-off at the end of the 2015 NFL season.
As for Curry, his NFL football career was a far cry from theirs.
When Curry made his transition into the pro ranks in 2009, the Seahawks were also nowhere near the championship contenders they were when Russell Wilson came into town some three years later.
Seattle won just four games during the 2008 NFL season under head coach Jim Mora.
It was the Seahawks’ worst record since the 1992 NFL campaign.
They won just two games that year with guys like Stan Gelbaugh, Chris Warren, Louis Clark, Tommy Kane, and Ron Heller in tow.
There were rumors the Seahawks were after USC Trojans quarterback and 2009 Rose Bowl MVP Mark Sanchez, per Jones.
— NFL Draft Picks (@WithThePick) August 7, 2021
At the time, Mora and Co. thought Sanchez could’ve been a good insurance policy at the quarterback position because of Matt Hasselbeck’s recent struggles.
The 33-year-old Hasselbeck battled through injuries in 2008.
They took a massive toll on him as he threw for just five touchdowns along with 10 interceptions.
However, Seattle decided to stick with Hasselbeck.
Despite a logjam at the linebacker position (they already had Leroy Hill, Julian Peterson, and Lofa Tatupu), the Seahawks drafted Curry anyway.
He signed a six-year deal with Seattle “worth up to $60 million,” per Jones.
It turned out not even a hefty paycheck could motivate Aaron Curry in the National Football League.
He told Jones becoming a millionaire in the pro ranks demotivated him somehow:
“One of my motivations was being able to change the financial dynamic of my family. But if you have a motivation that can be gained, what do you do now?”
“My goal was to get paid, and I got paid. And me looking back on it now, I got what I wanted. Now what?”
“I look back on it and I realize I was a victim of having a motivation that wasn’t everlasting, that wasn’t going to keep me going when things got hard. I had a goal that wasn’t fulfilling.”
Jones also told SI.com the scenario was completely different from his college days at Wake Forest.
Back then, he’d grind and try to improve on the gridiron.
When he joined the Seahawks, the money factor changed all that.
Curry’s stats during his rookie year reflected his uninspired play.
While he finished fourth on the team in tackles with 53, he could only muster a measly two sacks during the 2009 NFL season.
Seattle was just a tad better that year, winning five games.
Consequently, the Seahawks missed the postseason for the second straight year.
— Zesty NFL Seahawks (@zesty_seahawks) April 11, 2018
The Jim Mora experiment was an utter failure.
He became just the first head coach in Seahawks team history to get fired after just one season, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Mora’s exit paved the way for former New England Patriots and USC Trojans head football coach Pete Carroll to take over the reins in the Emerald City prior to the 2010 NFL season.
The head coaching change helped Seattle improve to 7-9 in 2010.
For his part, Aaron Curry produced 57 tackles and 3.5 sacks that year.
Unfortunately, the Seahawks lost to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Divisional Round, 35-24.
At this point, Hasselbeck noticed Curry was cracking under the pressure.
Curry simply wasn’t producing the numbers expected of a top-tier linebacker, much less one selected fourth overall just two seasons earlier.
Hasselbeck and running back Justin Forsett supported Curry during his struggles in his Seahawks career.
In fact, Hasselbeck invited Curry to join him in Bible study.
Hasselbeck also thought then-Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s Tampa 2 defense wore thin on Curry, per Jones.
The Seahawks quarterback also thought a 3-4 defense would’ve lengthened Curry’s NFL career.
Alas, it didn’t turn out that way.
To compound Curry’s woes, rookie linebacker K.J. Wright replaced him in Bradley’s starting defense during the 2011 NFL season.
Worse, the Seahawks traded Curry to the Oakland Raiders for two draft selections in October 2011.
The change of scenery allowed Curry to put his dire career situation in a deeper perspective.
Curry even wrote down several career goals on a notebook when he became a Raider.
According to Jones, these goals were arriving early for practice and staying late, improving his nutrition, and dedicating more time for film study.
— AFL Godfather🏴☠️👓🏈 (@NFLMAVERICK) April 6, 2021
Unfortunately, Curry’s knees weren’t up to the daunting task.
His numbers on the field suffered as a result.
Curry registered just 32 solo tackles and zero sacks in 11 appearances for the Silver and Black in 2011.
Even his desperate attempt at stem-cell therapy while he was on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list in 2012 couldn’t prevent his impending departure from the Black Hole.
The Raiders eventually waived him on November 20, 2012.
Curry took his act to the East Coast, signing a one-year deal with the New York Giants on May 12, 2013.
Regrettably, Curry didn’t make it to the Giants’ final regular season roster.
The signs were clear: Aaron Curry knew his NFL career was over.
He told Jones his play on the field had regressed considerably. It was an indication he had to hang up his cleats:
“From OTAs through training camp I was watching the film saying I’m not the player I was two years ago in Oakland.”
“I can see and feel it the same way, but I can’t change direction and I can’t drive off my first step and go make this play.”
“I can’t get downhill as fast as I used to. When I saw that, I was like well, to me my time is up – whether they cut me or whether someone comes over and knocks me out because I can’t get out of the way.”
Just three days after the Giants waived him, Aaron Curry retired from professional football.
— SportsLine (@SportsLine) August 28, 2013
Aaron Curry finished his four-year NFL career with 163 solo tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
It had only been just over four years since the Seattle Seahawks made him the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Now, he was in limbo.
While Aaron Curry didn’t meet expectations in the National Football League, a much bigger door was about to open.
Shortly after Aaron Curry hung up his cleats, his former Wake Forest Demon Deacons linebackers coach Brad Lambert became his saving grace once again.
Curry had been working out at the UNC Charlotte campus when he contemplated retirement from the gridiron.
Coincidentally, Lambert became the Charlotte 49ers’ first-ever head football coach, per Jones.
Curry rang up Lambert and asked him if he had an open coaching position on his staff.
— UNCCharlotteSPORTalk (@SPORTalkUNCC) October 15, 2015
Lambert advised Curry to talk things over with his wife Jamila.
The 49ers head football coach wanted to make sure if the coaching life suited his former protege.
Jamila Curry eventually supported her husband’s transition into coaching.
Ten days after Aaron Curry touched base with Lambert, he reached out to him again.
He told him he’s all in.
Curry became an intern on the 49ers’ strength and conditioning coaching staff.
Just one year later, he became a graduate assistant assisting the 49ers’ linebackers.
Curry worked his way up and became the 49ers’ defensive line coach in 2015.
His motivation isn’t just to become one of the best college football coaches.
In Jones’ words, “For everyone he coaches, he wants that player to raise young men that his daughter, Aaryn, can date.”
Curry’s passion for coaching also stems from his burning desire to mold young men who are about to break into the real world.
Aaron Curry, a father of four, told SI.com he has no regrets about his underwhelming NFL career:
“My son is going to type my name into Google and ask, ‘Dad, what does bust mean?'”
“And I’m going to say, ‘Let me sit you down and let me tell you about a three- or four-year span of my life that created what we have now and what you have now.”
“My kids have no clue that a lot of my parenting comes from what I learned in the NFL. What it takes to be successful, whether it’s sports or first-grade math.”
“You have to work hard, practice, pay attention to details. You can’t show up and just think you’re going to be good at first-grade math. You have to work really hard at this.”
After two years at the helm, Curry resigned in June 2017.
He cited personal reasons for leaving the 49ers’ organization.
Curry joined the Bill Walsh Fellowship program with the Carolina Panthers the same month he resigned from the Charlotte 49ers.
He also served as the CEO of the Family 59 Foundation from 2011 to 2018.
Curry also coached at the high school level.
He was the Charlotte Country Day Bucs’ defensive coordinator from March 2018 to July 2019.
Eight years after the Seattle Seahawks traded Curry to the Oakland Raiders, he’s now back in the Emerald City.
— Aaron Curry M.Ed. (@AaronCurry51) August 26, 2021
The Seahawks hired curry to become one of their coaching assistants for the 2019 NFL season.
He’s now officially a defensive assistant who coaches Seattle’s linebackers corps, per the Seahawks’ official website.
He also launched The Aaron Curry Foundation in July 2021.
According to its Twitter account, the foundation is “devoted to promoting enrichment for academic, social, and physical development.”
Despite the hardships Curry had to endure on and off the football field, he’s now come full circle.
While many naysayers have written Aaron Curry off, he’s living proof hard work and perseverance can help you redeem yourself in the face of adversity.