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Exceeding Expectations

By Clare Farnsworth

Posted Jun 11, 2009
When Aaron Curry came to Seattle for the first time, the Butkus Award-winning linebacker from Wake Forest arrived with more than his mother, his fiancée and a spiffy suit.

Curry also was packing ridiculously high expectations after being the fourth pick overall in the NFL draft by the Seahawks. That was back in April, and the selection of Curry came a few weeks after the Seahawks had traded Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson to the Detroit Lions.

“He’s a top-flight kid, and he will really add a lot to this organization both on and off the field,” coach Jim Mora said at the time. “It’s a heckuva pick for us. He’s the kind of guy that we like to draft, both as a football player and as a man.”

Offered club president Tim Ruskell, “Here is a guy that is going to come on to our team and have a starting job and play for us right away.”

At the strong-side spot that opened when Peterson was traded. The same position Peterson had played well enough to earn three Pro Bowl berths in as many seasons with the Seahawks.

Flash forward to mid-June and those post-draft expectations don’t seem quite so lofty.

“Aaron Curry is everything I thought he was, and I think he can be even better than what I thought,” linebackers coach Zerick Rollins said Thursday.

Curry is doing just about everything well for the Seahawks, who continued their final minicamp Thursday with a pair of practices. And the things Curry isn’t doing quite as well, he is at least doing quickly and aggressively.

His motto has become, “When in doubt, go all out.”

Whatever works.

“That’s the biggest thing – just understanding the speed of the game at this level,” Rollins said. “That’s probably the toughest transition for Aaron. But he is gifted, and he’ll get better as it goes.”

The Seahawks also are exploring an area of Curry’s game that wasn’t so obvious during his career at Wake Forest: Rushing the passer.

It’s not that Curry couldn’t rush the passer, it’s that he was asked to do other things in college.

“There’s no reason he can’t be a great pass-rusher,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “We just didn’t use him that way. We asked him to do tougher stuff, which is dropping into (pass) coverage.”

The Seahawks are asking Curry to be a two-way player – rushing, as well as dropping. It will only continue as Curry continues to improve the underutilized facet of his ample game.

For Curry, it’s a matter of working on “the small stuff,” and putting in some extra work. That’s why he and Rollins are on the practice field 15 minutes before the other players.

“Every day Coach Z and me get out here before practice and work on all the small stuff,” Curry said. “I’m learning a lot of new stuff – all the small techniques that will make me a better pass rusher.”

Those small things only complement the bigger aspects of Curry’s game. The speed. The power. The aggression. The agility.

“Coach Z is helping me with my hand placement, where my eyes need to be and my get-off,” Curry said.

So far, better than good.

“I say this with reservation, because it’s not padded practices and it’s not live,” Mora said. “But Aaron has an aspect of pass rush that we didn’t see on the college film, because they didn’t ask him to do it.

“We’ve asked him to do that a little more here, and he looks like he’s a guy that athletically can do that. If he can, then that’s a bonus for us.”

Curry already has made a positive impression on two hard-to-impress teammates. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu has praised the rookie’s intelligence and instincts, which just happen to be the strength of Tatupu’s game. Fellow outside linebacker Leroy Hill has found himself shaking his head on a regular basis because of Curry’s off-the-chart physical skills, which also are the foundation of Hill’s game.

“It’s a little different working with a new guy, just because we were with J.P. for three years,” Hill said. “But he’s fitting right in. He’s doing a great job.”

A grin then curled across Hill’s lips as he added, “He’s even wearing the same number.”

That would be 59 – Curry’s number at Wake Forest, as well as the number Peterson wore his first two seasons with the Seahawks.

Another similarity? The coaches will continue to call Curry’s number, asking him to do more and more as he shows he can do more and more.

Each step will take Curry closer to those lofty expectations that followed him to Seattle.

“Aaron should have big expectations for himself,” Rollins said. “Nobody should have higher expectations for Aaron Curry than Aaron Curry. If you carry it that way, then there’s nothing too big.”

Even ridiculously high expectations.

“The expectations are exactly what I though they would be,” Curry said. “I knew exactly what comes with being the fourth pick in the draft. I’ve seen the draft every year, and every year I’ve seen those rookies go through the season and you can just hear those expectations from the commentators, from their coaches, from the media, from the fans.

“I’m just looking forward to it.”

The views expressed by xX-MaNx do not represent that of himself or his subsidiaries.

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