ATHENS, Ga. — In the end, the decision didn’t come as a big surprise, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy one for Rennie Curran.
The Georgia linebacker announced Sunday he would forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft — a decision that came with plenty of heartache and more than a few false starts, he said.
“There’s no doubt about it, it’s the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life,” Curran said. “I changed my mind so many times. It’s one thing to say you’re ready to go — that you’re mentally and physically ready — but it’s another thing to have the courage to do it, to say that you’re going to go and not look back.”
Curran declined to reveal the results of his evaluation by the NFL advisory board, other than to say it was in line with his expectations and “good enough for me to consider coming out.” But while the lure of the NFL was strong, it was difficult to ignore the numerous reasons to return.
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Head coach Mark Richt said he talked to Curran about personal goals — winning national awards, moving up Georgia’s all-time tackles list — and the possibility of winning a championship. Curran said he struggled with the notion of leaving his teammates after just three years in Athens.
“That was the hardest thing to look at,” Curran said. “I felt like, if I came back, it would have been awesome. If I were to leave, I’d have a lot of opportunities as well. But the main thing was leaving my teammates. Those are like my brothers. It’s hard to know that I’m not going to be there for all the little things and all those memories I’ll miss.”
But for Curran, who led the SEC with 122 tackles this past season, the emotional reasons to stay didn’t outweigh the pragmatic reasons to leave.
Curran said his top priority is his family, including his daughter, and getting their support before he decided to head to the NFL.
On the field, Georgia is still without a defensive coordinator. Curran said he considered waiting until a new coach was in place, but he said any transition would have made returning for his senior year more difficult.
Several of Georgia’s other top defensive players won’t return for the 2010 season, including senior defensive tackles Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins and Kade Weston, along with junior Reshad Jones, who announced last week he is leaving Georgia a year early, too. That convinced Curran it was the right time to say goodbye.
“There was a lot of things I had to look at, and those were some of the things I wrote down on my list of pros and cons,” Curran said. “And my reasons to go outweighed my reasons to stay, even though I loved Georgia.”
While Curran topped Georgia’s defense in tackles in each of the past two seasons, the road to the NFL won’t be an easy one, he said.
Listed at 5-foot-11, Curran’s size makes him a question mark for some scouts who wonder how he will perform at the next level. But Curran said he talked about those issues with several NFL players and found plenty of successful-but-undersized linebackers already in the league.
Curran said he will participate in the pre-draft combine to be evaluated by NFL coaches, scouts and executives. He believes that will determine in which round and by which team he is drafted.
“I’ve got to get better, get the work in, and the biggest thing is going to be how I perform at the combine,” Curran said. “A lot of things are going to be crucial for me. I’m going to have to really knock out the combine. But I feel like the sky is the limit. I just have to get one team to like me, and there’s no reason why I can’t go in the first round, despite my size.”