In the world of college football graduate assistants, few have the resume or commanding presence of the Charlotte 49ers’ Aaron Curry.
Curry, 28, never expected to be a football coach. Five years ago, Curry was preparing for a life in the NFL. A former Wake Forest linebacker, Curry was fourth-overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 and debated as the best player available in the NFL draft. He signed a deal worth $60 million, $34 million guaranteed, the most lucrative contract given to a non-quarterback rookie in NFL history.
“My plan was to play 10 years in the NFL and sit on my couch for the rest of my life,” Curry said.
Injury cut his career short. After two seasons in Seattle and short stints with the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants, Curry retired in 2013. He said his time with the Raiders sparked a passion for coaching he didn’t know he had.
“The year that I got injured in Oakland, I spent that whole summer and the first nine games coaching other players,” he said. “Really diving into the playbook, extracting all the details, sharing it with all of the guys, that is when I fell in love with coaching.”
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert, who recruited Curry while he was defensive coordinator at Wake Forest, knew right away Curry would be an asset to the newly formed program. As a graduate assistant, Curry is helping coach inside linebackers.
“I’d always thought that he’d make a good coach even when he was playing,” Lambert said. “His NFL career got cut short and the timing was good. We were here starting a program. He was building a home here. It just worked out.”
Out of Fayetteville’s Smith High, Curry didn’t have a lot of big-name schools looking to sign him. He said that is one of the reasons he can relate well to his players.
“Every kid on this roster, I’ve been in their shoes before,” he said. “Whether it is how they were recruited, what their home life is like, being overlooked or going to a smaller program. With all my experiences from being a so-called ‘two-star recruit’ to a top-five draft pick, I can share with all of these guys what it takes to get to that level.”
49ers linebacker Caleb Clayton-Molby said his position group is one the tightest-knit units on the team. He attributes that to Curry.
“I’ve never really had a guy with as much NFL experience as he’s had as my coach,” Clayton-Molby said. “He has taught me more than almost any other coach I’ve had in the short time he has been here.”
Secondary coach James Adams, Curry’s teammate at Wake Forest, still sees the same traits in Curry as a coach that he saw in him as a player.
“When he showed up as a freshman for summer workouts at Wake Forest, he had that intensity,” Adams said. “In terms of energy, enthusiasm about the game, getting better, since I’ve known him, he’s been like that.”
Aside from coaching the 49ers, Curry is taking classes at UNC Charlotte. He just completed six hours of credit this summer and will be taking more classes in the fall. He lives in Charlotte with his wife Jamila and three young children.
“I’ve discovered that coaching is my purpose in life,” Curry said. “I have a good day every day. I used to think my purpose was to be a football player. It has been delivered to me that my purpose is to be a football coach. I am in a position to change lives through football.”