Kory Curtis was 9 when he first joined his father, Mike, on Friday night trips to Island Coast High’s stadium.
They found a common thrill in watching past Island Coast stars like Aaron Lynch, Jimmy Stewart, Mario Pender, Jordan Diggs and Kurt Benkert play for the Gators, a program that would become accustomed to sending players to Division I colleges.
“There were always big-time names there, so my dad and I always came to watch them,” Curtis said.
For Kory, a Pop Warner standout at the time, the vision was always to get there himself.
Seven years later he’s arrived and is becoming a top prospect in his own right. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback finished his sophomore season with 1,734 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in leading Island Coast to the state playoffs.
The 16-year-old signal-caller has been working hard this summer and recruiters are noticing, making Curtis No. 10 on The News-Press’ ranking of the best recruits in Southwest Florida.
“Being with him the last week, his leadership ability and wanting to take control of the team and wanting to be the guy, be the man, is impressive for a kid who’s just becoming a junior,” said former South Fort Myers assistant John Schwochow, who became the Island Coach head coach in early June.
“I didn’t get to see that coaching against him. All I saw was the arm, the ability to throw the ball and run the offense.”
During a University of South Florida satellite camp in Tampa on June 6, Curtis said Michigan head coach John Harbaugh offered him his first verbal scholarship.
“He said he liked my confidence in whatever situation, no matter what,” said Curtis, who also plays basketball and baseball. “He liked how I can put the ball where I need to be, how I’ll step up when nobody wants to and make the throw.”
Nearly two weeks later at another camp at Florida Atlantic Univeristy, Curtis said he was given his second offer from Division II Florida Institute of Technology.
Curtis hopes to follow in the footsteps of Benkert, a redshirt sophomore quarterback at East Carolina who led the Gators in 2012 to the state playoffs.
Pro-style quarterbacks in Southwest Florida have been hard to come by, Schwochow said, with only a few truly leaving a mark at the next level.
You have to go as far back as the mid-1990s, when Naples quarterback Terry Dean signed with Florida, to find the last truly successful major quarterback from the region.
But Curtis, a prototypical pocket passer with a big arm, hopes to reverse that trend. He earned a letter his freshman year after seeing time in three games.
As a sophomore, he took charge of a multi-set spread offense, going 11-of-15 for 140 yards and four touchdowns in a Week 9 win against Dunbar. He had four games of over 200 yards passing and had QB ratings — positive analysis of position effectiveness — of over 120 on five different occasions.
He understands his junior season will be critical from a growth standpoint.
“My dad has instilled it (leadership) inside me ever since I was little,” said Curtis, who maintains a 4.3 GPA. “He’s been always telling me I have to be the leader of everything. Lead people in the right way when other people are leading in the wrong way. No matter when it’s tough or not.”
So he arrives at the weight room at 6:30 a.m. four days a week over the summer, working on plyometrics and agility drills to improve on his 4.93 40-yard dash.
He spends hours with his team following his own workouts, then throws with receivers in the afternoon during 7-on-7 drills.
“To be successful in the playoffs, you have to have a guy who can throw the ball,” Schochow said. “Our area hasn’t had a state title and to be able to get there, you can’t be one dimensional. You have to be multi-dimensional.”
The dream is fast becoming a reality for Curtis, who expects to make an even bigger impact with the Island Coast offense in 2015.
“We ran the spread at South,” Schochow said. “We’ll be multi-faceted here. We’ll run the spread and put him under center a little bit out of I-formation. That’s helps him prepare for the next level.”
“Here we want to develop where he’s going to get the best of both, so now we don’t limit his options if he wants to go to a place that’s pro style.”
About The Big 15
Since July 3, The News-Press has published a profile on a standout football recruit every Tuesday and Friday. Players going into their junior and senior years were considered from both Lee and Collier County, with respect paid to those with hard scholarship offers and those without who possess great potential. The top 15 candidates were named and ranked, with the last story focusing on the very best recruit in Southwest Florida.