Georgia State's Curry: 'Let's go play'

Bill Curry has known since the spring what he will say to his 90 Georgia State players Wednesday afternoon when they open fall camp.

He will borrow from the wisdom of Johnny Unitas, the NFL legend with whom Curry played as a Baltimore Colts center from 1967 to 1972.

"I'll tell you what it is," Curry said: "We've been talking for two years. We've also been working, but as one of my great leaders said, ‘Talk's cheap. Let's go play.'"

More than two years since being hired – time spent finding everything from chinstraps to opponents to locker room space -- Curry has begun to feel the immediacy of the moment. Only 30 days remain until the Georgia State Panthers take the field for the first football game in school history, Sept. 2 against Shorter College in the Georgia Dome.

"It's been theoretical entirely up until this point," Curry said. "What we were preparing for was some pie-in-the-sky out in the distance, 348 days away or whatever. Now here it is, a month away."

For Curry, reality began to take form at the beginning of the summer. He had to tell about 20 of his players they would not be invited to fall camp. NCAA rules allow teams to bring 90 players to preseason training. Georgia State plans to carry about 110 players during the season. The extra walk-ons can rejoin the team when classes begin Aug. 23.

Even though they'll be able to make the first game, Curry said telling the players they wouldn't be part of the camp was "heartbreaking."

The summer hasn't been the most promising. The team's performance in summer school classes wasn't to his liking; some players will be ineligible. There were some discipline issues that Curry said he had to handle over the summer.

On the whole, however, the 67-year-old Curry can scarcely wait.

"I find myself with more adrenaline, more emotion, more of the competitive zeal because it's obvious we're going to line up and play against opponents," he said.

Curry and his staff have spent the past two weeks poring over every detail of the preseason -- matters such as position switches, readying incoming freshmen and planning each minute of practice leading up to the Shorter game.

The addition of another freshman class and about 15 transfers gives Curry great comfort. Last fall, it was easy for the best players to relax in practice because they didn't face competition for their starting spots.

"They knew they were going to be first string," Curry said. "This year, they're going to run out there and they're going to be third string, and they're going to get better quickly. Trust me."

Curry's wife Carolyn, who runs a non-profit that provides support to older single women in the form of seminars and book clubs, has seen her husband's energy picking up since they took a recent vacation to California.

While the Currys have many friends who are retired, "we're just doing something we enjoy doing," Carolyn said. "Maybe we're weird that way. I think it keeps you young."

After a 10-year NFL playing career, Curry coached 21 years, starting with assistant positions and then head jobs at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky. He worked at ESPN for 11 years before taking the Georgia State job.

He calls it reassuring and important to wake up in the middle of the night with questions about "[defensive] line drills and blocking sleds" and the like.

It happens every night.

"I don't lie there and cogitate so much I can't go back to sleep," he said. "I'm just saying it's important to wake up excited about what you're going to do."