RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Aaron Curry imagines a day in the future standing at the front of the room using his measured voice and commanding presence in a role his current boss would not have imagined a decade ago.
Pete Carroll never thought of Curry as a potential coach when he was a player for the Seattle Seahawks. And now that Curry is in his third season working on the Seahawks' staff, Carroll doesn’t see limits on where his former player can go.
“I’ve been surprised and absolutely blown away by how far he’s come so fast,” Carroll said. “He’s an incredible part of what our staff is all about right now. He’s got the sense, he’s got the delivery, and he’s got a really good mentality about dealing, talking with, and challenging players.”
Once considered a bust as a player, Curry reinvented his football life and in the process found himself back in the NFL and on a path that he hopes someday will reach the position of head coach.
It’s an ambitious goal, considering he’s only in his third season working as an assistant. But Curry is clear and succinct in what he wants to achieve and how he believes he can get there.
“When you’re passionate about it, you just go. You wake up every day and you just go and there’s nothing that can discourage me from it,” Curry said. “Nothing that can keep me from getting to where I want to get to and just stay locked in on handling what I got to handle right now, and focusing on what I can do right now and to make sure that we can win championships here in Seattle.”
Weekly through the remainder of the regular season, The Associated Press will look at the NFL’s coaching pipeline from the perspective of the coaches and executives who aim for the top jobs on and off the field, and the league institutions that have hindered them in their pursuit of those influential positions.
Curry’s career as a player was a disappointment. The No. 4 pick of the 2009 draft by the Seahawks, Curry was deemed a “can’t miss” prospect as a disruptive outside linebacker.
By 2013 he was out of the league. Curry lost his role in Seattle during Carroll’s second season in 2011. He was traded to the Raiders, spent parts of two unfulfilling seasons in Oakland and eventually finished his career as a training-camp cut by the New York Giants in the summer of 2013.
Curry played a total of 48 games with 39 starts, 5 1/2 sacks and loads of unmatched promise.
But it was during his time with the Raiders that coaching first crossed Curry’s mind. While out injured, Curry helped teammates breaking down film and learning the playbook.
“I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Curry said. “I enjoyed watching guys get success from the mental part of the game. And in those days, I realized I could be really good at coaching.”
But getting back into the NFL as a coach was not a linear path. He started as a strength and conditioning intern and graduate assistant at Charlotte. As he described it, Curry said “I was the best weight cleaner in the entire country.”
“I really took pride in scrubbing down bars. I took pride in cleaning the weights, the bumpers and mopping the floor and vacuuming the turf. I took pride in folding towels and stuff,” Curry continued. “Because those times when I was doing that work, I got to spend a lot of time with players.”
Curry eventually became a defensive assistant at Charlotte, and along the way earned a Master's degree in sport leadership, but his ultimate goal was always getting back to the NFL.
Curry was selected for the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, which allowed him opportunities to attend offseason programs for Cincinnati and Carolina. In 2019, Curry attended Seattle’s offseason workouts as part of the fellowship and never left.
Carroll said it was defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who also is Black and was Curry’s position coach in Seattle nearly a decade earlier, who saw the potential.
“Kenny wanted to bring him back because he had a feel for him, and he was right,” Carroll said.
Now in his third season on the Seattle staff, Curry has seen his responsibilities grow along with his impact on those he’s coaching. Curry started with the basics of breaking down film and putting together practice plans, but has moved on to doing more individual work with defensive ends alongside defensive line coach Clint Hurtt.
“It was a great role to be in because I think for a lot of guys who are former players, the best thing you can do for yourself is to start at the bottom and work your way up,” Hurtt said. “Because there’s so many things you have to learn, the intricacies of the game, so you can put stuff together for players.”