Curran takes heart in Tuggle's career

ATHENS -- Rennie Curran's official scouting report on the NFL's combine Web site finishes with the following statement: "Rennie Curran may be a better college player than NFL prospect in this year's draft."

Listed generously at 5-foot-11, that's something Curran, a Brookwood grad and former Georgia linebacker, has become accustomed to -- but it's also something Atlanta Falcon linebacking great Jessie Tuggle knows can be overcome.

"Rennie's one of those guys that's flying under the radar a little bit because of his height," Tuggle, also once viewed as undersized at 5-11, said Tuesday at Georgia's Pro Day.

"If he was like 6-2 there wouldn't be any doubt that this guy is a football player ... If teams like him I could see him going in the third, fourth, maybe fifth round, but who cares? The only thing he wants is an opportunity. And if he gets an opportunity he's going to show he can play."

After going undrafted out of Valdosta State, Tuggle played 14 seasons for the Falcons from 1987-2000, setting the NFL record for most sacks in a decade between 1990-99. He's been mentoring Curran since last season's SEC tackling leader was a junior at Brookwood.

A tweaked hamstring cut Curran's NFL combine trip short last month, and he ran what he called a disappointing 4.72 in the 40-yard dash.

Unofficial numbers had him around that mark on both 40-yard attempts Tuesday, in front of representatives from almost every NFL team. He did increase his bench press (27 reps of 225 pounds) though, as well as charting a 35-inch vertical jump and 9-foot-41/2 inch broad jump. He weighed in at 229 pounds, up four pounds from the combine.

In addition to his family, Tuggle was there watching and supporting all day.

"He was out there, just an awesome guy and about my height," Curran said. "Growing up everyone always told me I reminded them of Jessie Tuggle. I never really knew how famous he was but I just kept in touch with him and he's helped me out a lot. He told me don't worry about your height, don't worry about anything, you're better than me."

Curran opted to leave school after his junior season, and there were three big reasons: The dismissal of most of Georgia's defensive staff, his 17-month-old daughter and the fact that the biggest knock on him (his height) isn't something that's going to improve with another year of college ball.

A ferocious tackling machine with a nose for the ball at Georgia, most scouts say Curran will need to shed blocks better to have success at the next level -- something both he and Tuggle admit and say he's working on. Most mock drafts have Curran going somewhere in the middle rounds.

"Being a competitor I always want to do my best and put up abnormal numbers, but I think I improved in a lot of places [Tuesday]," Curran said. "This is not a make or break, this is just a beginning. So I'm just excited about the possibilities of what comes next."

Never one to need extra motivation, Curran holds the Georgia records for both bench press (460 pounds) and squat (615). His 115 tackles in 2008 were the most by a Bulldog in 10 years, and then he got 130 in 2009.

Tuggle has still provided extra inspiration, though.

"I still watch (Tuggle's highlight film) up to now," Curran said.

"It's talking about his dreams, what he went through ... Not being that tall, just like I'm the same way. It's like they're telling my story but from a guy who's been in the NFL. So it's really cool to have a guy like that in your corner."

Curran said he doesn't currently have any meetings or private workouts set up with NFL teams, but expects to soon. Regardless of where he falls after the draft starts on April 22, he and Tuggle think he has what it takes to succeed.

"I threw a couple of my game tapes on and made him a copy of one of my highlight tapes and said look dude, this is from a guy that all the scouts said couldn't play," Tuggle said. "But they couldn't judge the size of my heart."