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Georgia will take on Auburn in Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

Former UGA LB Rennie Curran on 2007 Sanford Stadium environment: ‘It was like a small earthquake’

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#DGD: Catching up with former Bulldog Rennie Curran

In this week’s installment of the #DGD or “Damn Good Dawg” series, we catch up with former Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran. 

Curran was a key defender in his time at Georgia from 2007-09. As a freshman, he quickly moved into the starting line up on Georgia’s 2007 team. By his junior year, Curran led the SEC tackles, earning All-America and All-Conference honors. Curran was taken in the third round of 2010 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. 

The former Georgia linebacker, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Saturday, is now an entrepreneur/motivational speaker living in Atlanta. 

DawgNation: Back in your time as a Georgia linebacker for that 2007 Auburn game, with the black-out jerseys and Soulja Boy music, what was that day like from a player’s perspective? Because that game still means a lot to Georgia fans as it was pivotal in helping the Bulldogs finish the season as the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.

Rennie Curran: It was awesome. It was one of the most special days of my life because it was also my 19th birthday. I was finally starting to hit my stride as far as learning how to be a collegiate athlete at that level. The year before I was playing at Brookwood, (High School located in Snellville, Ga) playing on Friday nights. It was all just coming together for me. I had gotten my first start against Troy and then made some pretty big plays against Florida. Auburn was just the icing on the cake where everything came full circle for me. Everything had sort of been building to that since the Florida game, so we were just at a high when it comes to our mindset and our culture. That game is when things really clicked for us. A big word for us that year was “swag” and just having that sort of mindset. And that was a day where everything, on the offense and defense, just came together.

DN: When you guys saw that you were actually going to wear the black jerseys, and have some extra swag, for the Auburn game, what was your reaction?

RC: I had never been so excited to play football in my life. It felt like you were a little kid on Christmas opening up a present. I’m sure you’ve heard the story, but we warm up like we usually do and we went back in the locker room to do our pre-game ritual—which was saying a prayer with all the lights out back by the showers so it was away from our lockers. So I guess when the lights were black, they were putting our jerseys on every seat. By the time we wrapped up our team prayer and turned the lights back on, everyone had their jersey in front of them, and we just went nuts. Everybody was going crazy, and it was one of those intense moments, even before we stepped back on the field. That energy we had just transferred back to the fans. I’ve never heard Sanford Stadium be so loud. It was like a small earthquake when we ran out. The energy was just so high. It was the perfect day, and then to top it off I had one of my best hits that day. 

DN: Do you remember the hit?

RC: Yeah so it came against Auburn running back Brad Lester, who played at my rival high school, Parkview (in Lilburn, Ga.). He ran a toss sweep and I just ran full speed… I didn’t even wrap up, just ran straight through him. And it just got everybody fired up. Everything was rolling. Everything about that game was just special. 

DN: So every time there’s an Auburn home game or a big game late in the season, a lot of UGA fans want to see those black jerseys come back out. As someone who follows Georgia football, would you like to see those jerseys get worn a little more often or on a special occasion?

RC: I would. As hard as these guys work, little things like that are a great way to reward guys as long as they don’t get caught up in the hype surrounding that because that can happen too. It can make you lose focus as well, but I don’t see anything wrong with those little motivators. Whether it’s music or jerseys or a little piece of equipment, those small little motivators can help you get in the right mindset to help you dominate. It brings the fans together. I love the black jerseys.

DN: So you’re someone who was able to play a lot as a freshman, especially at that linebacker position. Right now, Georgia is trying to play a bunch of young guys, like Channing Tindall and Adam Anderson at those linebacker positions. What is that transition like, where you go from tackling guys you’re just so much better than to facing guys who might be playing in the NFL a year from now?

RC: It’s a major transition mentally, just in terms of not getting into that mindset of not getting overly excited. You have a tendency to do that, and Tindall did something last game that I did when I first started. You have amazing coaches at Georgia, and you’re coached up and they teach all your different techniques. But in the midst of a game, you can get caught up in the excitement, hype and atmosphere, and some of your techniques go out the window. So you might forget, if you have a running quarterback and you might go try and make a big play to try and get everyone fired up. But then you’ve forgotten that you have the running back in man coverage, and so you lose that man and you get chewed out because you tried to make a big play. In high school, you can get away with it because you have the athleticism to cover it up, but when you get to the college level, you have to have that attention to detail. You have to manage your composure, and that’s something that just develops over time as you progress and become more mature. 

DN: So you’ve seen a fair amount of Georgia’s linebackers this year. How do you think they’ve done, especially where these guys have to replace a Georgia legend in Roquan Smith? What have you made of someone like Monty Rice, whose really seemed to sort of turn the corner in recent weeks?

RC: They’ve definitely improved over the course of the season. You look at someone like Rice or Natrez Patrick, and they’ve definitely made some big improvements. Those first couple of weeks, I’m not going to lie, they were looking pretty suspect, especially against the run on first down. It’s tough to replace a guy like Roquan, who is giving you double-digit tackles per game. You don’t really realize what kind of effect that has on other players who are used to taking on blocks, so he can make that play. You don’t know how guys are going to handle stepping into that playmaker role. But they’ve done a good job. The defensive line and the safeties have really helped us out to allow the linebackers to get comfortable, and grow into the playmakers we need them to be. There’s still a long way to go. They need to continue to be consistent playmakers, but I’ve also seen a lot of growth out of Monty and Channing, as he’s gotten more playing time. I think you’re going to see them continue to rotate until they find that sort of dominant playmaker. That’s hard to find, but once you do, it becomes the staple of your defense. They become the quarterback of your defense. There’s never been a dominant Georgia defense that didn’t have a dominant player. That “rally the troops” type player. 

DN: This is down the line a little bit and obviously Georgia is capable of beating Alabama. But a lot of people are saying, “This is the best Alabama team ever, they’re going to win the national title.” What do you think Georgia has to do to win that game and beat Alabama?

RC: To beat Alabama, they’re going to have to put it all together, and I don’t think they’ve done that yet this year. I think this last game (the win over Kentucky) was about as close to a complete game as we’ve played so far this season. But I think we’ll have to put it all together from a defensive, offensive and special teams point. We have to be more disciplined than we ever have. If we get down in the red zone, it can’t take us four downs to get into the end zone. If there’s a ball that we get the chance to pick off, we have to make that play and capitalize on their mistakes. We’re not going to get too many opportunities like that, so Georgia is going to need to show up with a high level of urgency. If we do get down, and this is another thing that I think Georgia is missing from last year, having someone who can rally the troops like Sony Michel did against Notre Dame and in the Rose Bowl. Someone who can be like, ‘let’s go, pick it up,’ and just pull the team along. Whether it be Jake Fromm or someone on the defense, we need someone like that against an Alabama.

DN: Sort of like someone who can say, ‘we’re not losing this game, just give me the ball.’

RC: Yeah, someone who can give that sort of ultimatum and back it up. You have to have someone like that. 

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