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HAMMOCK: Height won't keep Curran from NFL success

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Brookwood grad Rennie Curran opted to leave Georgia after his junior season and has numbers too impressive to ignore despite a familiar knock that he isn't tall enough to compete in the NFL.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Brookwood grad Rennie Curran opted to leave Georgia after his junior season and has numbers too impressive to ignore despite a familiar knock that he isn't tall enough to compete in the NFL.

The knock on Rennie Curran is a familiar refrain for him.

He can fly all over the football field, making tackle after tackle. He can post ridiculous numbers in the weight room. What he can't do is make himself any taller.

The linebacker's stature -- he said he's 5-foot-101/2 to 5-11 -- briefly hurt him in college recruiting coming out of Brookwood. But eventually his numbers were too impressive to ignore for some schools, and Georgia reaped the benefits of his 298 tackles the past three seasons.

In the coming months, Curran will face questions about his height more than ever as he prepares for the NFL draft. He left Georgia after his junior season, so he's heard a few detractors question how high he will get picked because of his height.

"Most people have been positive, but you've got a few people who say, 'He won't make it. He's too small,'" Curran said Monday night, a day after he announced he was turning pro. "That's something I've always had to hear about, my size. It's something that motivates me. It's no different from this. It's something I'll hear about at the (NFL) Combine. I'll hear it when I get drafted. But like always, I'll use it as motivation."

Curran won't be the first NFL linebacker to face doubters when the league measures his official height next month. Sam Mills and Zach Thomas have gained pro stardom despite standing shorter than 6 feet, and Curran has an even better role model locally.

He's roughly the same size as five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie Tuggle, who made nearly 2,000 tackles in 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

"I'm definitely a Jessie Tuggle fan," Curran said. "I've talked to him a lot. His son (Justin) is a year younger than me and we worked out (at Competitive Edge Sports) together. He coached me at football camp. He's a great guy. He's given me great advice and he's someone I look up to a lot. If I can have half the career he had, I'll be doing great."

Curran figures to have a good shot at an NFL career, it's just a matter of when in the draft a team will take a chance on him. A second- or third-round selection could happen, but he could easily slip into the deeper rounds.

On the field, he has put together a pretty good resume tape. He piled up 130 tackles this past season (57 more than Georgia's No. 2 tackler) and 115 as a sophomore (39 more than No. 2), showing off his exceptional ability of finding the football.

The results on the field have never been a question with Curran. Neither has his speed or his power (his 450-pound bench press at UGA was five pounds off Tony Taylor's school record). He also has some other positives in his favor -- he's never suffered a major injury and he has been a model citizen. The team that takes him will get a great reward, both on and off the field.

That said, NFL scouts will likely put plenty of concern into his one weakness, his height.

"(Tuggle) told me not to worry about my height, to focus on what I can control," Curran said. "That's what I've always done and that's what I plan to do now."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.