The people of Tar Heel Blog have spoken, and today we move to the next guy on the list of the top 25 UNC footballers of all time: No. 24, Ronald Curry.
Curry, from Hampton, Virginia, is perhaps best known for his exploits in high school. He was a top-10 overall recruit in both football and basketball, and was surrounded by more hype than 757 contemporaries Michael Vick and Allen Iverson. After a messy recruitment which saw him sign with Carolina following a Virginia decommit, ‘Benedict Curry,’ as UVA fans know him, won MVP in the McDonald’s All-American Game and enrolled at Carolina in 1998 with more hype than anyone before or since.
I mean, see for yourself:
Career at UNC
Curry arrived in Chapel Hill as Carl Torbush took over for the recently-departed Mack Brown, and the lack of stability in the program took a toll on the young quarterback— playing for three offensive coordinators is tough, being an athletic quarterback recovering from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in a sophomore year loss to Georgia Tech is tougher.
With those qualifiers, Curry was nothing if not a delight to watch. He left UNC as the all-time leader in both total yards and passing yards, despite time lost due to injury and splitting snaps with Darian Durant as a senior. He was twice named MVP of a bowl game, including what is (to me) the crowning moment of his UNC legacy:
As the numbers will show, Curry was before his time. None of the offensive coordinators under either Torbush or John Bunting tailored an offense to his strengths.
I’d be remiss not to mention his exploits on the basketball court, as well. Injuries and bulking up for football cost Curry some of his explosiveness and his jump shot on the hardwood, but he was a defensive fiend and strong floor general for the basketball Heels. His best year was the 2000-01 season, as he and fellow football standout Julius Peppers were key to Matt Doherty’s first group of Tar Heels, helping the team reach #1 in the polls by mid-February.
Curry was awesome at Carolina, but any thought of him still carries a little bit of ‘what if?’ What if he had been born 10 years later? What if he hadn’t gotten injured? What if he could’ve played for Brown instead of Torbush and Bunting?
He was still electrifying, and he is still my favorite Heel of my lifetime.
Top Games at UNC
Curry’s 48-yard run for a touchdown in the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl against San Diego State served as a declaration of things to come. The 2001 Peach Bowl against Auburn was Curry’s redemption game. His performance in Atlanta ended his career on a high note.
He also loved beating Duke. His performance against the Blue Devils just two games prior (11/19, 217 yards, 3 TD, 0 picks, and a rushing TD) was awesome. His junior year against Duke was nice too at 18/24, 218, 2/1...and 105 yards on the ground.
He liked beating Duke on the basketball court too, as the ‘fake thigh injury’ game in Cameron will attest. In 2001, Curry fawned an injury after drawing a foul in order to allow a better foul shooter to take his shots. The extra points padded their lead and set up a dramatic finish in the end.
Curry didn’t make it to the NFL as a quarterback, but found a niche as the Oakland Raiders’ third receiver after being selected in the 7th round of the 2002 Draft.
He was at his best in 2004, when he hauled in 50 passes for 679 yards and six touchdowns. Another injury sidelined him for much of 2005, and (notice a theme here yet?) Curry came back and put up two more strong seasons in 2006 and 07, putting up 727 and 717 yards, respectively.
He was let go by the Raiders in 2008, and Curry held on for parts of the next two seasons with the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams. Curry was an offensive assistant on the San Francisco 49ers staff in 2014 and 2015 before moving to the New Orleans Saints in the same position.