Back in 2009, North Gwinnett’s annual holiday basketball tournament lost its title sponsor and a large chunk of its funding until Jared Cook stepped in.
Then a rookie with the Tennessee Titans, Cook assumed sponsorship of his alma mater’s showcase event. He had been a paid professional athlete for less than a year, but his philanthropy back home quickly became a priority.
Rennie Curran, also a Titan, is following the same path.
The former Georgia linebacker, fresh off his rookie NFL season, hasn’t forgotten where he’s from, much like Cook. At Monday night’s Brookwood football banquet, the first Rennie Curran Team First Scholarship was awarded to senior Nick Moore.
“It was a nice gesture from Rennie,” Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. “He comes by here all the time when he’s in town and he’s always been an inspiration to our kids in terms of leadership. ... He can walk into our building and be a magnet. The students want to talk to him. The teachers remember him. He’s just a genuinely nice kid.”
Curran has much broader goals for his charity work than just his Brookwood and UGA communities, or even his new hometown of Nashville. He is in the process of planning and fundraising for The Liberian Dream Tour, a charitable mission to help the less fortunate in Liberia.
Both of his parents are Liberian and his two older sisters were born there, too. His parents fled their native country during the first of two brutal civil wars and Curran was born in the U.S., so he has never been there.
That will change in April when he and his family will travel to Liberia and visit churches, schools and hospitals, assisting where they can along the way. He hopes the group will be 40 strong and it likely will include some other NFL players with Liberian ties, like Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who has shown high interest. Shiancoe was born in Liberia and, like the Currans, fled the civil war-torn country. Some Nigerians, like Osi Umenyiora of the Giants, also are considering the mission trip.
Those goals won’t keep Curran from staying involved locally here in Gwinnett. He will move his parents into a new house soon, but it’s still in the Brookwood area, so Curran can swing by his alma mater regularly and get to know the kids who could possibly earn his scholarship.
“Going through my middle school and high school years, a lot of people helped me along the way,” Curran said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without that. Guys like Chip Smith (from Competitive Edge Sports) and my youth football coach who helped me when my family was struggling. ... I wanted to give back now that I’m fortunate. I wanted to pass it on and do something for another kid.”
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.