Thirteen years removed from his first encounter with the game that would change his life. Becoming his greatest passion, and calling, the game of football has defined Rennie Curran in a lot of ways; while bringing him his greatest joys, and accomplishments it has taught him his greatest lessons. Awakened to a feeling of emptiness and ouster, some would say Rennie Curran stood before the world a man stripped of his identity. So they thought. What would take place afterwards was the byproduct of great soul searching. A proud man, a proud athlete, A proud role model. Those are some of the qualifications bestowed upon this decisive young man. His recent release of his debut novel, Free Agent, is one for the age; a depiction of a man. One who defies the odds, the stereotypes, and takes very seriously, his blessings. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the former Tennessee Titan, and Tampa Bay Buccaneer, one of the prides of Gwinnett County, GA. In our discussion everything that is Rennie Curran was unveiled. In arguably one of his most candid hours since the pages of Free Agent were released, Rennie Curran sheds light on his perspective on life, football, his transition to the literary world, and more.
Congratulations on all your success thus far it must be a great feeling to witness all of your dreams come to fruition, as a professional football player. Tell us about you love affair with athletics, how far back you can remember the NFL being your ultimate goal?
The first time I touched a football I was about 10 years old. I was playing in my neighborhood with some older kids who were a lot bigger than I was, but from time to time they would let me play. On those occasions, I was surprised at first but after a while I learned that I had certain abilities, and was actually pretty good. A little while later, in my teens, my family moved to Snellville which is in Gwinnett County. I grew up about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta, and that’s where I started playing little league football. My coach at the time took me to a High School Football game, and I fell in love with the atmosphere. From that point on, I knew that football was my passion, and the NFL was my ultimate goal.
At what point would you say that potential of making it sunk in?
Believe it or not at that very age of 10 years old the light turned on, I was young but I knew that the potential was there to get bigger and stronger. I was always a rough kid so I was attracted to the physicality of the game. At the time I played Running Back, and I always felt that was my calling. Not to sound too cocky but I’ve always been one of the best athletes in my peer group, so that gave me the confidence and foresight. Once I got to Brookwood High school my coach shifted me to Linebacker, which I was not too happy about I must admit. The position change changed my perspective of the game as a whole. I was quick enough and had natural abilities so I was able to adapt. Along with that, my coach encouraged me to stick with it. Back then we had a rocky relationship to say the least, but I trusted his judgment. Soon I was motivated to be the best Linebacker. I understood the talent that God blessed me with and I wanted to take full advantage.
In college you were an All-American at the University of Georgia; from football lover to football lover, is the SEC the greatest football conference in America? Who would you say you enjoyed playing against the most?
Rennie: Numbers don’t lie! If you look at college football over the last couple of years, let’s say 5-7 specifically; it’s been the SEC that has reigned. From the likes of Florida, Georgia of course, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU; those have been the upper echelon teams. When you go a step further and look at the level of talent in the NFL, and the impact players you will see that there’s a good amount that have come out of the SEC. What I love about the SEC is the parity. It is one of the top, if not the TOP conference in all of college football. In terms of an actual favorite team to play against, I would have to say any one of our rivals; from South Carolina, to Florida, or Auburn. All of those games were normally won by the team who found a way to make plays. We were evenly matched and that made for great action, and great atmosphere. To be honest, even the NFL can’t compare at times in terms of atmosphere. Playing football in the SEC is different.
Your teammates, I am sure you guys developed an unbreakable brotherhood; to this day do you maintain that bond?
Rennie: We definitely formed amazing bonds over the seasons and we maintain that bond til this day. We all talk and my teammates have been a great support system for me, in all my ventures. Of course it is well known that some of my teammates are doing really well in the NFL like Matthew Stafford, and AJ Green. I am really happy for them, and they are very supportive of me. From camps, and other events that we may have individually we all come out to support each other. We have a special unity and it’s very positive; when ever the situation calls, we are there for each other. It’s great to be a part of.
Let’s fast forward to the NFL, what was the biggest adjustment you would say for yourself going from Saturdays to the big lights on Sunday afternoon?
Rennie: For me the biggest adjustment was the fact of football going from a sport that you love to play, to a career. It became my job. Overnight you become the CEO of a company, as you become a brand and an entity all in itself. As a college student, a student in general, I always understood the business and importance of education and how I carried myself on and off the field. I understood how to handle money. I became the head of my household with all the responsibility of helping family and making choices with everyone’s best interest in mind. I am the youngest but being a pro football player made everyone look up to me and the finances brought opportunity to provide. The stakes had risen, and the politics that came with it is was an adjustment as well.
Let’s get into Rennie Curran the man outside of football a little bit; You have “The Liberian Dream ” tattooed, obviously taking great pride in your heritage. In your own words what has your heritage instilled in you?
I was inspired by knowing my history, my culture. With that came a great sense of identity. My parents instilled respect and humility in me, and those are values that have stayed with me. I set myself apart at an early age. I gave respect and received it. My parents came to the States in the 80s and work hard. They passed that down to me and my siblings; they implemented morals and I applied those to my approach in life and sports. My great grandfather was a chief, so I have always had a fortune of knowing that I come from a prestigious lineage, and I carried myself as such.
These lifelong experiences on and off the field have produced the man you are today; furthermore they have become the source for your book which you have recently released, tell us about Free Agent; when did you decide to begin writing a book?
I decided to write the book after I got released from the NFL. I woke up one day, 13 years removed from when I first fell in love with football; I reflected on the accomplishment of being drafted and how hopeful things were looking. Suddenly, I had transitioned from being a star and had to adjust to the ups and down of pro sports. After my rookie season, a new coaching staff was brought in, and a changing of the guard took place. I was worn down mentally after being cut and I needed to vent. I tried my hand at writing as a way to release. It’s ironic because as a kid I never liked to write. I had to be forced to write, and it had to be on something that I was passionate about for it to work; something like love letters. (giggles). When I started with the book it was a result of a realization that I was in a no man’s land so to speak. I let that feeling be the muse and I kept the focus. The content becomes a way to share with the world where I was at mentally. The way I looked at it, everyone could relate to being a free agent- in life, not just in sports. My crossroads just happened to be that of an NFL Free Agent. Everyone experiences their dreams being dashed; I just took the opportunity to write about mine. Look at people like Oprah, even Bill Gates; they all have a story of failure, rejection which ultimately served as motivation for their success. Another major element for me was the lessons of that time. I learned about myself, the true meaning of friendship, family, and faith.
So would you say that FREE AGENT is it autobiographical by nature?
I used experiences from my childhood to explain a number of concepts; for example in the 3rd chapter I speak about self confidence and the importance of believing in yourself. Growing up I had to learn the importance and value in my culture as a way of empowerment. I used to get teased about being of African descent, and it no longer bothered once I took pride in my lineage. Once I embraced that, I didn’t need what some others needed. Too many people rely on materials to validate their self-worth. In the book I talk about how playing football became my identity but at the same time when you take away the title of Pro Football Player, I am still comfortable with being me. Too often you see people who cannot cope with just being themselves, they need titles. Throughout the book as a whole I took my experiences and detailed them in a way that is very relatable for readers.
Rennie: It was huge to have Coach Richt be apart of the book. Everyone for the most part knows his story, he played ball at the University of Miami and was a star but unfortunately never reached that height in the NFL. He never really landed a spot where he was the #1 guy, and that was a major transition for him giving his success at the U. He dealt with playing behind Hall of Fame caliber individuals like Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills and turned it into a passion for coaching. He of course got his feet wet at Florida State under the legendary coach Bowden and paid his dues. His story made perfect sense to me as something that should be apart of FREE AGENT; not only was he a great coach, but he is well respected in the game and he has impacted my life. He has always been approachable and there for guidance, support. Not to mention, having him apart of the book, is great for name recognition. I have received great support from other high caliber individuals as well like Marlon Wayans, Ray Lewis, and Jessie Tuggle. The feedback has been nothing but positive, well at least to my face (giggles). I turned a situation into inspiration, and for that people are proud of me. I know my reasons for the book, and I am comfortable with that. You will always have critics but I know where my heart is with this, and that’s in the place of wanting to be a model/ inspiration to others; youngsters, sports fans, anybody that may look up to me. For me, the book has created a different platform. Like I said I have always been aware of who I am and where I was in life. You don’t have many books authored by Young Black men, and an athlete at that.
What is the Perspective of a Young African American Athlete?
Rennie: My perspective is that of subtlety, and enlightenment. I wanted to enlighten people to the thinking of a Young Black Athlete in America that totally goes against the stereotypes. Most times we are seen as womanizers, and bad with money; arrogant and a number of other things. I talk about that in the book. Growing up I knew what the expectations were of me, and I knew that they were for me to be the worst. I’ve always gone against that. I participated in the orchestra; I took honors classes when other athletes did not. I carried myself in a manner that showcased a different perspective. We as athletes, African Americans specifically, are more than what the media portrays. You always hear the bad; I wanted to show the good. I wanted to showcase my individuality in writing this book, on a platform of positivity.
For those who are listening out there, especially aspiring athletes, what would you say is the greatest challenge when dealing with success?
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FREE AGENTS, IS AVAILABLE NOW