Work in Sports
'He stole the spotlight and I want it back'
By Tim Peeler, Special to CNNSI.com
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Ronald Curry knows he's no longer the biggest superstar from his hometown.
He begrudgingly admits that honor has to go to Virginia Tech's Michael Vick, a one-time rival at Warwick High School in Newport News, Va., who is now everybody's favorite sophomore quarterback. For good reason: Vick has actually done something during his college career, like taking the Hokies to last year's BCS title game against Florida State.
Curry, meanwhile, has yet to live up to the hype that earned him national player of the year awards in football and basketball at Hampton (Va.) High School.
"I had a lot [of attention] coming into college and he has a lot right now," Curry says of his one-time rival. "Hopefully, I can pick it back up. He stole the spotlight and I want it back."
While Curry says "there is a lot of shine out there" for him to steal, he's not measuring himself against Vick's success.
"I just want to make myself better," Curry says. "I am not in competition with anybody."
In fact, after sitting out much of last football season and all of last basketball season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, Curry just wants to get back in competition with any and everyone. He liked the sedentary lifestyle that he had when he was unable to work out -- he can't remember when he had so little to do -- but he didn't like the 20-some pounds he put on his muscle-bound frame.
That extra weight is gone now. Once up to 223 pounds, Curry is below his goal of 208 pounds and figures he will report to North Carolina's first practice early next month somewhere around 202 pounds.
"I feel like I am a fine-tuned athlete once again," Curry says.
To be honest, though, he is quite sick of answering questions about his health, and grimaces every time the topic comes up. But he answers the questions anyway.
"I feel like my quickness is back," Curry says. " I feel like my first step is back. I feel like I am shooting the ball well [in basketball] and throwing the ball well [in football].
"I just really feel very confident right now."
Confidence is something Curry has never lacked, not after winning three Virginia state championships and becoming everyone's prep All-America. But his college career has yet to go the way he expected.
He was thrown into action immediately as a true freshman after Tar Heel starter Oscar Davenport was injured on the second play of the 1998 season. But his freshman year was marked by far too many mistakes, as he often tried to win games without the help of his 10 offensive teammates.
The same could be said for last year, when Curry accounted for 65 percent of the Tar Heel offense in the four full games he played. Despite missing the final six games of the season, he still had more yards of total offense than the next two players combined.
Curry welcomes the changes that have come at UNC since he last took the field. Head coach Carl Torbush fired three members of his offensive staff and brought in former N.C. State head coach Mike O'Cain to be the Tar Heels' offensive coordinator. Curry saw limited action in the spring, so he will be playing catch-up when fall drills begin to learn an entirely new system.
That's fine with him, however.
"The last two years here, I don't know what we were doing," Curry said. "The guys didn't like the things we were doing offensively. I don't think we were put in the position to be that successful."
O'Cain, who worked wonders with far less talented players at N.C. State, can't wait for Curry to learn his way around the Tar Heels' new offense. There is still a question of confidence in his teammates, though Curry is impressed with redshirt freshman Willie Parker and is anxious to hook up with one of his favorite targets from two years ago, sophomore wide receiver Bosley Allen, who sat out all of last season with a knee injury.
He will have an entirely new offensive line in front of him, but considering the 37 sacks last year's line gave up (including the one that injured Curry), that might not be such a bad thing. New line coach Robbie Caldwell, who came with O'Cain from N.C. State, has promised a leaner, meaner line to protect Curry.
And the many changes have produced a new attitude among the Tar Heel offense, which finished last in the ACC in total offense and scoring offense.
"I think a lot of people did a lot of soul-searching," Curry said. "No one is pointing any fingers anymore. Everybody is taking it upon himself to make the team better. We are going to have to make this work together. That's the way we are going into the season."
CNNSI.com ACC Insider Tim Peeler covers the ACC for the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record.