ATHENS, Ga. — After more than a year at Georgia, linebacker Nick Williams is used to the critiques from coaches. Even after a good play, he said, they are apt to point out a minor flaw in his technique.
It’s not that Williams doesn’t take the comments of his coaches seriously. It’s just that they are expected. What gnaws at his conscience is hearing criticism from teammate Rennie Curran.
“Truthfully, every play, you think, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to be on my “P’s” and “Q’s”,’ ” Williams said. “I have to be on top of my game because you have a guy like Rennie, and every play he’s going hard. When I’m out on the field, I’m just like, ‘I’m going to match Rennie.’ ”
Curran is a mere six months older than Williams, but the mystique surrounding Curran’s status as Georgia’s most vocal defensive leader has nothing to do with age.
A year ago, Curran entered his sophomore season as an up-and-coming talent still overshadowed by more accomplished players. But as injuries mounted and the defense collapsed, it was the voice of the undersized linebacker from Snellville that galvanized the locker room.
On the field, he had 115 tackles, the second most in the SEC and the best total by a Georgia player in a decade. But it was off the field where Curran made his mark.
“With Rennie, it was just something that grew on him,” junior Akeem Dent said. “He knows he has a responsibility, so he’s taking charge.”
This season, Curran is firmly established as the front man for what the Bulldogs hope will be a defensive resurgence. On the field, he knows where every player should be. Off the field, he is the model of how to do things right.
“It’s awesome because I always dreamed of being a Bulldog and dreamed of the day when I switched from being that kid who looked up to players to where, now, I’m that guy,” Curran said.
This offseason, he organized voluntary workouts, set records in the weight room and helped the incoming freshmen various ways, including conditioning and the playbook.
Beyond his work in Athens, Curran visited his high school and gave several talks about finding success through hard work and dedication.
He went to churches and talked about his faith and how it has helped him succeed on and off the football field.
He went to hospitals and talked to patients about overcoming obstacles.
He visited his former neighborhood and found that, despite all the fame he has earned during the past year, he still fits in with his childhood friends.
“It’s a good feeling when you go back home and everybody’s proud and you can affect people,” Curran said. “I think that’s so much bigger than football. It’s what you do with it, what you do with that platform.”