PARKERSBURG — Former National Football League star Bill Curry learned several lessons during his career as a player and coach, and shared them with students at Parkersburg High School on Tuesday.
Speaking at teacher Sam Vincent’s Sports in Culture class at the PHS Library, Curry’s football and life lessons came from legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi, and from another legendary head coach, Don Shula.
Curry spent a year playing for Lombardi’s Packers and from 1967 to 1972 with the Baltimore Colts, and had one-year stints each with the Los Angeles Rams and Houston Oilers.
Curry said about Lombardi’s and Shula’s coaching styles, “The good teams don’t tolerate racism, period.”
Curry coached at Georgia Tech, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia State. He also spent a few years as an assistant coach for the Packers. As a Packer, Curry said he had not quite matured as a player and person, and he later regretted it.
Curry played for Green Bay in the first Super Bowl, and showed the students his Super Bowl I championship ring. He also won Super Bowl VI, and was a member of the Colts team who lost to Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
Curry said Super Bowl I seemed to be like a family scrimmage, with the game not being a sellout. The Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs that day. Curry left that game with an injury.
Curry said he had never been on a team with African-American players before he got to Green Bay, and said that growing up in the Jim Crow South, that racism at that time in the North was just as bad, but not talked about very often.
One of the great Packers stars, Bart Starr, became Curry’s mentor, and Willie Davis and the rest of the Packers took him in and showed him not to say things that would upset the rest of the team.
This made him learn to accept his teammates, no matter who they were and what their race, religion and background were.
And that lesson has stayed with Curry to this day.
While at Georgia Tech, Curry never started a game, and was told by his coaches that he wasn’t good enough to play center. But one of them took him aside and said, “Bill, I know you can play. Why don’t you come down to the field early, and we’ll work on your footwork.”
Curry had the good fortune to play with legendary quarterbacks Starr and Johnny Unitas, the Colts legendary quarterback.
He said, “They were great guys, first of all.”
He also said that the differences between Starr and Unitas was significant, with Starr being more of a hands-on person as a player, but Unitas tended to be more distant from his teammates.
But they were equally effective, Curry said.
Just when it seemed like Curry wanted to quit, he said, “This is my teammate and I could not let him down,” about the closeness of his teams.
He said that Lombardi and Shula were the same way about this, and racism.
Curry, a member of the Colts Super Bowl III losers, said, “We got ready to play the game, and then we didn’t play,” and said the Colts did not pay attention to Namath’s guarantee that the Jets would win.
But he has no hard feelings towards Namath, saying, “You can’t be on the field with Namath and not like him.”
When he was the head coach at Alabama, Curry said that Alabama players will not give up in a game or slack off in practice, and had to encourage his players at Georgia Tech and Alabama to do the same.
He was asked by students about whether players from his time would be able to play with the players today, and he said no.
Curry said as a Packer about going against Dick Butkus, the Chicago Bears great, he had to go head-to-head against him.
About strategies he and fellow offensive linemen would have to use against one of today’s players, Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, he said they would have to use a double-team (where two offensive line players team up against a defensive player),but added if he was playing in his prime today, he would be knocked on his can.
He also said that the players are bigger, faster and stronger than in his day.
About what he misses about the game, Curry said that he misses the guys he played with.
Grant Snyder, a junior at PHS, said of his experience with Curry’s presentation, “I thought it was very good. We were able to see his ring from Super Bowl I.”
Snyder also said that he’s a Packers fan and was happy to hear about some of the Packers’ greats such as Starr.
Kyle Hall, starting outside linebacker at PHS, said, “Really, it gave me more of a visual about how it (the game) was played back then.”
He added that he learned that the game was much rougher back then because there was less passing than in today’s game.
David Hamilton, a senior starting defensive end at PHS, said about one of Curry’s life lessons, “I learned to be humble, treat everyone the way you want to be treated. It was a fun experience overall.”