ATHENS, Ga. -- Rennie Curran doesn’t exactly have an everyman’s story.
The son of Liberian immigrants, he became an All-SEC performer at Georgia, one of the Bulldogs’ most popular players and an NFL draft pick by the time he was 21 years old. And yet Curran believes that reading his story of struggling to succeed in professional football as an undersized linebacker might help people cope with more typical problems in their own lives.
So after the Tennessee Titans released him in 2011 and he sat by the phone for weeks waiting for a phone call that didn’t come, he sat down to write “Free Agent: The Perspectives of a Young African-American Athlete,” a book about pursuing your ambitions even in the most trying times.
“I realized that just like what I was going through, so many people were going through the same situation like if they got fired from their job or they were coming into the real world out of college -- that time where you’re in no man’s land and you’re trying to find yourself,” Curran said. “I just talk about the different life lessons that you learn like when you’re a free agent.”
Curran released the book last month, only a few weeks after opting to follow a new path that will keep his football dreams alive. He hasn’t been on an NFL roster since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him last preseason, so the 5-foot-11 linebacker decided to try his hand in the Canadian Football League.
The 24-year-old will report to camp with the Edmonton Eskimos at the end of this month.
“I decided to make that transition just to find a team that believes in me,” Curran said. “I know they’ve got other linebackers in the CFL that are closer to my size. It’ll be a league that’s mostly a passing league, so I’ll be able to develop passing skills and other skills and just get on the field. That’s one of my biggest things is I feel like if I can just find my way on the field, I’ll be able to show people my abilities. Any time a team has given me a chance, I’ve never disappointed.”
Before he leaves, however, Curran will continue with a busy schedule promoting his book at signings and media appearances around the Atlanta area. Thus far, he has found a receptive audience that reaches well outside Georgia’s boundaries.
“Probably the biggest one so far was at about 4 a.m. I was coming home from one of my friends’ birthday parties at like 3 o’clock in the morning, 4 o’clock in the morning,” Curran said. “I checked my email and it was from a soldier in Afghanistan who had read my book during his 12-hour guard shift. He was telling me how inspired he was and everything like that and it just gave me goosebumps.”
Experiencing disappointment and failure in football led Curran to reevaluate his definition of success, he said. Having achieved so much by a young age, he did not have much experience with doors closing in his face. But that’s what the vast majority of his audience will deal with -- sometimes frequently -- in their lives, and Curran believes his story will help them learn that they are not alone.
“There’s so many obstacles and times of uncertainty that you’re going to go through,” Curran said. “I think that the person who picks up the book, they’ll realize that whether you’re a professional athlete or whatever you’re trying to achieve, just because you’re in a position of success doesn’t mean you’re not going to go through your doubting and your low times.
“That’s one of the things I talk about is that even when things seem perfect, you still have times where things change and one thing you’ll deal with in life is transition and the times of where you find yourself and find things out about yourself. Those things happen when you go through some type of adversity. … Part of me writing was just to encourage people to keep fighting to achieve those dreams.”