Nov. 12, 2004
By Katie Stuhldreher
Before each home game at Notre Dame Stadium, senior linebacker Derek Curry charges onto the field and proudly holds up a chain before a screaming student section. This chain represents the unity, strength, and integrity of the Irish defense. Curry is the perfect man to carry this chain since his leadership and enthusiasm has inspired the team and fans for the past four-plus seasons.
Curry got his start playing football as a youngster growing up in Texas as he participated in flag football. He made the transition to full-contact football in the seventh grade when he joined his middle school football team.
Football, however, was not Curry’s main focus until high school. He was an outstanding young athlete who excelled in basketball and baseball as well as football.
“God chose football for me. In most of my college visits, I looked at football and baseball, but God thought that He could use me to serve Him better as a football player than a baseball player,” says Curry.
His experiences in baseball and basketball helped him to improve on the football field.
“The footwork and ball skills I learned in basketball definitely helped me out. The hand-eye coordination from playing baseball also was a big factor. In all three sports you have to be able to shuffle and change directions quickly. In football, it’s more of an individual thing in terms of getting your assignment and making the big plays,” states the veteran linebacker.
Once he began to get serious about playing football, Curry began talking about playing in Notre Dame Stadium one day.
“It was actually a long-running joke with my mom. Even before I played, I used to say that I would play for Notre Dame when I got older. I guess it was just a dream that God wanted me to fulfill one day that was always in the back of my mind,” says Curry.
He moved closer to realizing his dream to play for Notre Dame with his remarkable high school football career for Sealy High School. Curry was a three-year starter who started every game in 1997, the year Sealy took home the state championship. As a senior, he recorded 143 tackles, four sacks, eight tackles for loss, and three interceptions.
An honorable mention pick on the USA Today All-America team, Curry was named one of the top 100 players in Texas by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle. In addition, he also won the district defense MVP award his senior year.
Sealy coach Kevin Kromer said, “Derek’s a kid who’s going to make it wherever he goes. He’s got great parents and a strong character. No one was stronger.”
The Irish recruited Curry as a linebacker in 2000, and although Curry saw no action as a freshman, he prepared himself for a huge future leadership role.
“Anthony Weaver and Courtney Watson definitely helped me out a lot in learning my role on the team. Anthony was older and shared a lot with me about how to succeed at Notre Dame. Watson helped me a lot in terms of his extensive knowledge of the game. We used to study and watch films together,” says Curry.
As a sophomore, he made 11 appearances as a reserve linebacker and recorded two tackles against Texas A&M. He also made 49 special teams appearances. Although it was frustrating to wait for more playing time, Curry valued the assignments he got.
“I played on punt team, and I saw that as just another link in the chain. It’s one more job to do and I need to go out and make the plays,” says Curry.
In the 2002 season, he transitioned from inside linebacker to outside linebacker.
“I like both inside and outside linebacker. You have to react faster on the outside since you are only a yard from the other guy. On the inside, you get more balls, but on the outside, you get to blitz more. So, I guess it’s the best of both worlds,” says Curry with a smile.
In 2002, the 6-3, 235-pounder also moved up to a starting role with the graduation of Rocky Boiman, playing in all 13 games, making 12 starts. He finished 10th on the team in tackles with 34, including seven for loss and four sacks while recording his first fumble recovery against Purdue. In addition, Curry played a big role in holding Air Force’s top-ranked rushing offense to a season-low 104 rushing yards.
“There wasn’t too much pressure when Rocky left, but I try not to let things like that get to me. I knew I had to rise to the occasion and step up since Rocky was an instrumental part of our defense,” says Curry.
“Getting my first start was just a lot of fun. We shut out Maryland and I just went out there and had a lot of fun,” said Curry.
In 2003, Curry emerged as a true leader, starting in all 12 games and finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 66, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Curry had a career-high of 11 tackles and forced a fumble against Boston College.
Although the Sealy, Texas native attracted a lot of attention as a senior, he credited a good deal of his success to the cohesiveness of the Irish defense, especially the linebackers.
“Cohesiveness is vastly important. On offense, you have one quarterback, while on defense you have three. You have to click and have a strong bond. I love my teammates and I give them my all on every play,” says Curry.
Derek Curry is enjoying his best all-around season with the Irish in 2004.
Thus far in 2004, Curry has shown himself to be a vital element of the Irish defense. However, he is not satisfied, and continues to push himself to improve.
“This season, I just want our team to win. We need to be consistent. We want our coaches to be able to rely on us to be enthusiastic, to make big plays, and to do our job on every single play,” says Curry.
Curry’s coaches and teammates continue to characterize him as one of the most vocal and enthusiastic players on the team.
Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte says, “Derek Curry–this guy right here–is the reason I came to this university.”
Curry is an inspiration to the football team, win or lose. After the overtime victory over Washington State in 2003, Curry was the last one to return to the locker room. But when he came in, he came in yelling, “Never give up!”
“I try to provide a sense of relief. It gets stressful sometimes and I just try to keep things light. I can push hard and have fun while doing it,” says Curry.
As a veteran leader, he tries to be enthusiastic, to encourage the team and not to draw attention to himself. His steadfast faith plays a huge role in his love for his team and continuous encouragement of everyone around him.
“My faith is everything. Without God, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be the same person. I’m only able to play football through God’s power, not mine, and I just hope that I can glorify Him in doing so, not myself. I try to use football as a platform to glorify God,” says Curry.
The chain that Curry carries onto the field before each home game is a perfect symbol of his faith in the team, and the strength that it can possess when all its players are linked together.
“The chain was an idea the defensive coaches came up with to show unity and trust. There is a link in the chain for each person on the defense and we put the chain together on Fridays before games,” says Curry.
Curry’s faith life is also reflected in a very active way off the football field. He served two years as the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Representative for football and huddle leader for Notre Dame Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He also has been a Peer Advisory Panel member for Freshman Football Orientation the last four years.
Curry also has served as co-chair for Tackle the Arts charity and volunteered for three years at the SAAC Pediatric Oncology Christmas Party. Over the past two years, he has volunteered at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of downtown South Bend and There are Children Here. Curry is also a two-year member of Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI), an interdenominational Christian group at Notre Dame.
“I like to give back because I know what it’s like to be on the other end and feel hopeless. I want people to know that they can make it out of any situation if they are just encouraged to be themselves and to be okay with that,” remarks Curry.
Curry said that his faith is strengthened by that of his father, who is a kidney dialysis patient.
“My dad’s faith is just amazing, with all he has to go through each day. He is still happy and he stays strong. He still works and he has done so much for me. I’m just glad to have an opportunity to make him happy by making a name for myself here. That man really has a faith that is unparalleled,” says Curry.
While his plans for next year are still uncertain, he knows God will direct him accordingly.
“It seems like I always try and make plans but then God ends up telling me what He wants me to do and I go in a whole other direction than I planned,” says Curry.
Looking towards the future, Curry can see himself working as a youth minister.
“The faith that children have is unbelievable. It is really important for kids to get a strong foundation of faith that they can rely on as they get to high school and college. I think that I can share my experiences with them and help them through it,” says Curry.
Curry is majoring in management information systems in the Mendoza College of Business and likes to play guitar and saxophone in his free time.
He has proven that he is a leader on the football field, on campus, and in the community. His presence on the team will be missed next year, but his contribution to the team and emulation of the Notre Dame spirit will never be forgotten.