March 20, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Vinny Curry knew he was kind of going back to his New Jersey neighborhood when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago. But the number of familiar faces the former Marshall star defensive end will see regularly at work in the coming months has multiplied significantly.
“It’s great to have people up here I know from Marshall,” Curry said during a recent phone conversation. “The coaching change is bringing in some guys who know me, and I know them. The bottom line though is you still have to produce.
“In the NFL, it’s not who you know; it’s what you do.”
The Neptune, N.J., native will be learning a new defense, a hybrid 3-4/4-3 that likely will have the 2011 Conference USA defensive Player of the Year at outside linebacker quite a bit when he is on the field. No matter where he is in the Eagles’ complex, he will see reminders of Marshall despite going from one shade of green to another.
That’s because the staff of new Philadelphia Coach Chip Kelly – formerly at the University of Oregon -- includes Jerry Azzinaro as assistant head coach and defensive line coach, Rick Minter as inside linebackers coach and Press Taylor as offensive quality control assistant.
Azzinaro was Curry’s position coach at Marshall for his freshman season (2008), before Azzinaro was hired away by the Ducks.
“Coach Azz and I go back,” Curry said. “He cracks a smile when he sees me, but what’s important is he knows the kind of player I am, that I work hard. Coach Minter, too. He was our (defensive) coordinator at Marshall (under former Coach Mark Snyder). It’s good to have people like that in your corner.
“The coaching change (from Andy Reid) was a move up top. It happens in this business. No matter who the coach is, you have to show your talent, know what you’re doing, know the system, work hard.
“It’s a business, and you have to produce. If you do that, you’ll get a chance like I did last season.”
Curry had five defensive line coaches in his five years at MU, with Thielen Smith, Azzinaro and Bob Fello for Snyder, and Sean Cronin and Fred Tate in 2010 and ’11, respectively, with Coach Doc Holliday. Smith was the DL coach when Curry sat out his first year at MU.
Now, he’s looking at two in two years with the Eagles.
Minter became the Herd’s interim head coach for its bowl win in Detroit at the end of the 2009 season after Snyder resigned. Taylor and Curry were Herd teammates. Taylor was a backup quarterback as a junior college transfer to Marshall who has risen through the coaching ranks quickly. He was an offensive graduate assistant at Tulsa the past two seasons.
Curry, an Eagles’ fan growing up, was the club’s second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (no. 59 overall). He made the 53-man roster, but was made inactive on game day for the first 10 games last season.
The 6-foot-3, 266-pounder made his NFL debut on Nov. 26 in a loss to Carolina, when he made five tackles, including four solos. He played in the Eagles’ final six games, finishing the season with nine tackles.
“Technically, in my mind, with this new coaching staff, it’s like I’m starting over,” Curry said. “With all the tough times and everything I’ve been through in life (including his mother’s death during his senior year at MU), not playing at first last season was just part of what you have to deal with.
“It was like I was going through growing pains, and then when I got into that first game and played, getting that taste, it just makes you hungry for more. It was just bringing me along slowly. We had a lot of talent on our defensive line, too.”
Curry, who graduated from Marshall in December 2011, said he has been able to return to campus only once since his Pro Day workout last March. That trip was for a Feb. 2 basketball game against UCF this season when he accepted the Ed Starling Award as the 2011-12 Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
There’s another connection to Marshall besides those new Eagles’ assistant coaches that has reminded Curry of his potential, too. He saw former Herd teammates Albert McClellan and Omar Brown earn Super Bowl rings last month with Baltimore’s victory over San Francisco.
“It was great to see those guys in the Super Bowl,” Curry said. “I’m watching the game and Albert’s out there making tackles. Omar doesn’t get drafted, but he makes the Ravens. That’s great for Marshall.
“I’m watching the game and I’m thinking it’s unbelievable to call those guys my teammates and brothers.
“I just wish it could have been the Eagles there. Maybe this will be our year.”