Bill Curry returns to Tech practice field for first time since 1986

Georgia Tech great Bill Curry returned to a most meaningful section of campus on Tuesday for the first time in more than 30 years – Alexander Rose Bowl Field.

Curry, an All-American as a player for coach Bobby Dodd and later an ACC coach of the year, said that he had not been to the Yellow Jackets’ practice fields since 1986, the last of his seven seasons coaching the Jackets.

“That place is sacred to a lot of us, if you think about it, how many hours we spent there,” Curry, 77, said. “That was very definitely one of our lab assignments, except that it was two hours every afternoon.”

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On Tuesday morning, Curry sat in on a team meeting and then spent time on the practice field. Coach Geoff Collins said that the visit “meant a lot to me, a lot to this program for him to be back around.”

Curry has been a regular visitor to campus, most notably Bobby Dodd Stadium for home games. But, for various reasons, including the fact that his own coaching career lasted several years past his tenure at Tech, he had never made it back to the practice field until invited by Collins.

Collins has been active in welcoming former players. In March, more than 500 football letter-winners and family members showed up at a spring practice for “Legends of the Flats Day.”

Curry said he was excited to return Tuesday, though careful to not overstay his welcome. He said he was following the example of Dodd and his athletic director, Homer Rice, who didn’t come to his practices. Curry said he didn’t want to be seen as meddling or looking over Collins’ shoulder.

“I’m not going to be hanging around the football office and bugging people,” he said.

Still, the memories returned as he toured practice, such as his first year on campus, when the freshmen practiced on the baseball field apart from the varsity.

“We had a lot of great players, and I just remember being utterly intimidated and wondering, ‘Am I ever going to be able to do this?’” said Curry, who went on to All-American honors in 1964.

Curry said he doesn’t know Collins well, “but I love his energy and his organization and I see much of the sense of purpose that we felt in the early ’80s, because it was so important to bring Georgia Tech football back to where it belongs, and that has to be the primary theme. It certainly was for us and it certainly is for this group.”

Curry hopes the visit wasn’t a one-time trip.

“Oh, gosh, yes,” he said. “If somebody will let me come back out there, I will.”