Pro athlete, former UGA star Curran speaks to teens Saturday

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 24, 2014 

Rennie Curran knows what it is like to be a free agent.

He was once released from a professional sports team and was unsure if he would be able to play somewhere else. He says it is not just athletes who experience that feeling of unease.

"We are all free agents at one time or another, facing a time of uncertainty," Curran said.

He believes that with faith and the proper attitude, people can survive those rough situations.

"Your setbacks and adversity can make you stronger," Curran said.

The former University of Georgia football star and NFL linebacker is now a member of the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. He will deliver his message to middle school, high school and college students Saturday night at 7 in the St. Mark United Methodist Church activity center on Whitesville Road.

Curran is part of a special free program for the public called Jams, Jokes, Jocks and Jesus. Sponsors include the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and radio station 88.5 The Truth.

Christian comedian Lee McBride and the gospel rap act No Compromise will also be in attendance. Door prizes, including $500 in cash, will be given away.

The program is the brainchild of Matt Miller, who works in the risk department at TSYS.

Miller said many people ages 16-25 tend to move away from church, as he did. He wants to keep as many young people with the church as he can.

Miller said that since more children are getting involved in sex, drugs and alcohol, they need to know there is a better way to live life, and that it is a lot more fulfilling than "all this garbage people subject themselves to now."

Miller wants children to realize that every choice has long-term consequences and that having a relationship with God is the best way to stay on the right path.

He chose the theme for the event because sports is a great platform to reach young people.

Miller and Curran attended the same Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., and Miller knew how much Curran overcame to become a star.

"Success is not a destination. It is a journey," Curran said. "A life of fulfillment is knowing you are having a positive impact on someone. That is the message I want to get across to people."

Another message is "never stop dreaming and never give up on your dreams."

While some athletes might shy away from the role model title, Curran said it is important for him to be one.

"Athletes can affect so many lives," he said.

Curran recently wrote a biography, "Free Agent," that is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and his own website, www.renniecurran.com.

The book tells the story of how Curran, the son of Liberian immigrants, became a football star despite constantly being called too small.

His senior year in high school, The Atlanta Journal Constitution had Curran as a member on its "Super Southern 100."

At Georgia, Curran twice led the Bulldogs in tackles and, as a junior, he led the Southeastern Conference in that category.

He did not stick around for his senior season. He was picked up in the third round of the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.

Curran played one season before being released. He was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but was released without seeing playing time.

He had a good season with Edmonton, making 70 tackles. He said he will likely be back if he can't find a job with the NFL.

Curran said he grew in the church and played the drums at services.

"I was right up at the front," he said. "During my hard times, the Lord has helped me to overcome. I know Jesus is always with me."

He said pro football has been a bit of a disappointment, as it is not playing just for the love of the game as he did when he played in high school and college. Still, he took his releases hard.

"Nobody likes to be rejected. I had worked hard, but sometimes doing your best isn't enough. You can't give up."

He is often asked to speak at churches, where he delivers the same advice he gives when talking to children about what it takes to be successful.

He said people should take pride in their success, but also remain humble.

"When successful, you need to give back," Curran said.

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