David Curry’s loooong Tech career comes to quiet, sudden end

Georgia Tech linebacker David Curry (6) hugs it out with coach Geoff Collins before his final game as a Yellow Jacket on Thursday night, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Georgia Tech linebacker David Curry (6) hugs it out with coach Geoff Collins before his final game as a Yellow Jacket on Thursday night, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

David Curry won’t win a Heisman Trophy at Georgia Tech, but he has been there so long that he must surely have played for Heisman.

Of all the big numbers connected to Tech’s famous 222-0 victory over Cumberland in 1916, missing is how many tackles Curry had in that one.

“(Teammates) got all the jokes, I hear them all the time,” Curry said.

“Some of them call him dad. Some call him old man. Some call him grandpa,” his mother, Dawn Curry, said.

“We tease him he’s been there longer than anyone on the staff. I think he’s older than the GAs (grad assistant coaches),” she chuckled. To which Curry objects. As a matter of fact, he thinks he’s exactly the same age as the Yellow Jackets linebacker GA.

OK, we’ve established that Curry has spent an unusually long time within the womb of Georgia Tech football. He reported to the Flats out of Buford in 2015 and through a combination of two redshirt seasons and an unusually deep love of game and place has been around this program for six seasons.

The kicker here is that because of the NCAA’s concessions to COVID-19, the Tech inside linebacker had the option to return for a seventh in 2021. He actually had the chance to facetiously utter that classic Blutarsky line from “Animal House”: “Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the (bleeping) Peace Corps.”

But he will pass on that. When his mother a little bit hopefully broached the idea of staying another season, David cut her off.

“You know mom, I am 25,” he said.

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Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) talks with teammates. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) talks with teammates. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) talks with teammates. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Even the longest and strongest of college ties must loosen sometime. Why, another year at Tech, Curry would have had tenure. He had lived through two very different head coaches – Paul Johnson and Geoff Collins – and three very different defensive coordinators. He has played in two bowl games that you’ve never heard of – TaxSlayer and Quick Lane. He has gone a very trying 13-22 over the last half of his long college career. All while securing two degrees, ready to wrap up his master’s in economics anytime now. Along the way, he became the most stable and dependable part of Yellow Jackets football even at its most turbulent.

Inevitably, there came Thursday night, Curry’s really, truly final home game at Georgia Tech. A final college game, period, it would later turn out, as a Tech at Miami makeup game next week was later canceled because of COVID concerns. And so, the longest Tech career ends in a no-contest and a sigh.

It wouldn’t be generous or fair to call Thursday’s game fitting of Curry’s time at Tech – given the 14-point loss to Pitt and the hand injury he suffered when jamming it against a teammate’s helmet. But it was definitely instructive.

Things looked dire for our protagonist at the 10:19 mark of the fourth quarter. Curry left the field in the company of an athletic trainer, who knows if ever to be seen again wearing the white and gold? But just four minutes of game time later, he was back sporting a cast on his right hand – “clubbed up” as he called it – and just full of put-me-in-coach.

On his first play back in, a sweep away from him, Curry rushed to the sideline and somehow subdued the ballcarrier for a minimal gain.

“I was making a lot of good plays last night,” Curry said Friday, “but had trouble getting them down right away because I couldn’t really wrap up because I only had one hand. You definitely need two hands tackling college running backs.”

In on a few more stops before the night was over, Curry would end as Tech’s leading tackler for the second consecutive season. Now surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb awaits.

“I could continue until midnight talking about all the virtues that are David Curry,” Tech coach Geoff Collins said after the game, with about 75 minutes remaining before midnight.

“Doesn’t surprise me he found a way to get back into the game and give us a chance.”

Longevity is the easy and obvious hook to Curry’s story. But there is so much more to it than that, like the persistence and commitment and sense of shared purpose that is no joke to him at all.

Yeah, his younger ‘mates have fun with him. “But they respect me, and I do everything I can to help these young guys develop,” Curry said.

“That’s one of the legacies I want to be remembered by here: A guy who prepares well and doesn’t just keep it to himself but helps everybody out in the building and helps the young guys develop faster and shares knowledge.”

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Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) reacts during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, October 9, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) reacts during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, October 9, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) reacts during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, October 9, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

As for highlights of a half-dozen years, Curry would point to being there for the Miracle on Techwood Drive in 2015, Lance Austin’s return of a blocked field-goal attempt to upset Florida State. As for those he had a direct hand in, there was the career-high 16 tackles last year in a loss to North Carolina – “I felt like I was at another level in that game,” he said. In his final three games at Tech he totaled 38 tackles, four tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.

The lowlight was the foot injury he suffered at the start of preseason camp that cost him the entire 2017 season just as he was, well, getting his footing within the program.

Curry’s father, Buddy, a Falcons linebacker from 1980-87 and a man devoted to teaching the fundamental and character-building aspects of the game through his Kids and Pros program understandably has a bigger-picture view of his son’s Tech highlight.

“It’s the opportunity to play six years at the game you love and to see him mature as a leader and a young man, that’s it for me,” Buddy said. “As a former NFL player, I know (football) is just preparation for life. It’s not the end-all, be-all.”

“I’m sad that it is coming to an end, that hurts my heart,” Dawn Curry said. “But I couldn’t be more proud of all the things that he’s accomplished. I just smile at his future. He has teed himself up to be successful, no matter what he does.”

Curry would like to give the NFL a shot. He’s confident if that doesn’t pan out, he’ll have the academic resume and experience to serve him in the non-contact business world.

For whatever job he applies, Curry can tell the employer that he never checked out – not during two redshirt seasons and not during this weirdest season of all when the Yellow Jackets went nearly a month between games because of COVID cancellations.

“Half the time it didn’t feel like you were on a football team because everybody was separated. You don’t get to be around anybody. Obviously, it wasn’t ideal for your senior year, but you do what you gotta do,” he said.

He can point to how he adapted to change within the Tech program when Johnson departed and Collins brought in an entirely different way. The new staff asked Curry to get out front of the defense, and he enthusiastically responded.

“He was a guy who had some production, but in these two seasons he’s had such leadership, been a steady hand at that inside linebacker position for our defense,” Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said. “That will be the biggest piece I will miss more than any production that shows up on Saturday.”

“When these new coaches came in, there were no starters, there was no depth chart, everybody was on the same playing field and you have to earn everything you’re given. I thrive in that. I thrive in knowing I can compete and try to be the hardest worker and I can win that spot,” Curry said.

Curry’s genes did not fail him. There to watch him Thursday was his father, the former Falcon, “the most encouraging man I’ve ever been around,” Curry said. And his father’s father, Jessel Curry, who played on Adolph Rupp’s undefeated 1953-54 team at Kentucky. And his three siblings who all wove athletics into their lives (younger sister Gabby, for instance, was All-SEC in volleyball last year at Kentucky).

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Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) leaves the field. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) leaves the field. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Georgia Tech's linebacker David Curry (6) leaves the field. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Being a good teammate was the best way Curry could honor such a gene pool. He said what he will miss most about Tech after all these years will be easy friendships formed around a team. He’ll miss those pre-COVID Friday nights before a game when players’ families all mingled at the team hotel and formed a close and friendly tribe.

As for what footprint he would like to leave behind at Tech, it’s not very complicated at all. Having spent nearly a quarter of his young life here, Curry would like to think he wasn’t the only one who benefitted from all that time.

“Football is a dependence sport,” he said, “and the highest honor you can have is to be dependable. That’s something I take a lot of pride in, being dependable to my guys, my coaches. Just being around them and always being a guy they could rely on.”