Being just a couple of weeks away from the NFL draft, this is the time of year when you hear about the adversity some prospects have overcome to reach the precipice of an NFL career. Naturally some have overcome more obstacles than others. Marshall DE Vinny Curry's trials were strictly in the classroom, and much like he handles obstacles on his way to the quarterback Curry took them head on.
Coming out of Neptune high school in New Jersey, Curry did not qualify academically for college and attended prep school in Cincinnati in an effort to get his grades up.
"I went to Cincinnati, Ohio, Harmony Prep," said Curry. "I went there for a semester and a half. Played the whole football season there. I took some ACT classes and it helped prepare me."
On Curry's first attempt he scored a 21 on the ACT exam, an alternative to the SAT test.
A 21 on the ACT is considered an average composite score with 50 percent of the test takers nationwide scoring below a 21. Taking a look at Curry's SAT score from high school the NCAA wasn't buying his ACT results.
"The NCAA said it was too high comparing the test to the SAT," said Curry, who maintains he took he test himself.
Despite letters of recommendation from city councilors and the prep school the NCAA didn't budge. So upon enrolling at Marshall he was a Prop 48 victim and had to carry a GPA of 2.0 in 11 core courses before being eligible to play football. Curry didn't appeal the NCAA's decision, choosing instead to show them again he was a capable student-athlete.
"It taught me a lot of discipline," said Curry. "I disciplined myself to prove to the NCAA that I could be a college student on a high level."
Curry graduated this past December with a degree in general studies and a pair of minors in Criminal Justice and Sociology.
"Everything just worked out for the best and I feel that it taught me an honorable lesson that school is very, very important," Curry said. "From that day on I was determined to get my degree."
In fact Curry stood a good chance of being a top 100 draft choice following his junior season last year, but chose to return to school to complete his degree. His 23 sacks the past two seasons have also helped his draft stock as he's widely forecast as a second-round draft choice.
"I love Vinny Curry," said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. "I gave him a mid to late second round grade. I just love the way he plays. He fires off the ball low. He gets good leverage. He has a quick first step. He's not an elite athlete, but he's athletic enough that can he get off of blocks and double move guys. His motor is always going, it seems."
Curry's other impressive stat was his six forced fumbles in 2011, with only one coming on a quarterback hit.
"My defensive line coach, Fred Tate, he sat me down one day and said, 'What you going to do, man?' I'm like, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'You got to to do something else to separate yourself from the rest of the defensive linemen in the country.' So I worked on stripping every day," said Curry. "If you look at my strips or forced fumbles, they're not really from the quarterbacks. Most came from running backs and chasing down screen plays. I worked hard at that."
Curry also excelled in taking down ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. The defensive end had 39 tackles for loss the past two seasons, including 21.5 in 2011 which ranked second in the nation.
Following a solid pro day that quelled concerns about his speed with a 4.69 40-time along with a 35-inch vertical leap and 28 reps on the bench, Curry still might not be elite. What he does provide is a sense of comfort for coaches who know what they'll get from him each and every Sunday.
"With his instincts and the way he plays the game and the fact that he can get to the quarterback, I think that he has a chance to really come in and contribute," said McShay. "He's never going to be an elite player because you look at his arm strength and his arms are a little shorter than you want. You can pick apart all those things. But when I watch him, he has violent hands, uses his leverage well. He's always fighting to get to the ball. I don't see any way that he doesn't succeed at the next level."
And if there are still doubters, who view Curry as far from a sure thing that's fine with him.
"I love being the underdog," he said. "I feel the underdog always works harder, always has something to prove. That's my personality. I feel like I always have something to prove. I just love to work, I love to get better. I just like the game of football. When you're in love with this game and you've got a passion for it it's a different mindset."