Chris Curry has never been short on confidence.
When the Lehigh Senior High junior was informed he was a part of The News-Press and Naples Daily News’ Big 15, which ranks the top prep football recruits in Southwest Florida, he wasn’t surprised. One of five running backs on the list, there is no question where he thinks he ranks.
“I truly believe in my heart I’m the best running back around here, and I’m the best running back in the United States,” Curry said.
For the 5-foot-11, 200-pound ball carrier, who checks in at No. 7, belief in himself is essential to get to where he wants to go in two years – playing on a college campus in front of a national TV audience on Saturdays.
Confidence alone won’t do the trick, though.
Holding offers from Western Kentucky and the University of North Carolina isn’t enough. Curry, who may possess one of the best combinations of speed and physicality in the area, understands he still has a lot to prove.
After impressing at a Clemson University camp last summer, the hype surrounding Curry was already nearing a fever pitch before he played a down his sophomore season. He posted three 100-yard rushing performances in three games before dislocating his shoulder and missing the last half of the season.
Lehigh finished a turbulent season at 3-6 and missed the state playoffs.
Curry blamed himself.
“I felt like I let my team down,” he said. “I felt like I let the fans down. It was a stressful point in my life.”
Lehigh second-year coach James Chaney said guilt is a common emotion for a player suffering their first major injury.
“That first injury hurts you mentally,” Chaney said. “You learn to deal with it. He took it pretty hard, but he rehabbed, he worked hard and got back pretty quickly.”
The goal was to come back bigger and faster.
Curry’s calling card has always been having a big frame and strong base to take on multiple tacklers. The speed part took some work.
He was fortunate to have a resource like Lehigh strength and conditioning coach Matt Booth, who also is a personal speed and conditioning coach to a handful of pro football athletes and has worked with Olympic-caliber track athletes like legendary Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell. Booth focused on refining Curry’s running mechanics throughout the winter and spring.
The results on the field were eye-popping. During the Lightning’s 43-40 spring game victory over Immokalee May 26, Curry rushed for 237 yards and four touchdowns, adding great breakaway speed to his repertoire.
“You could see it when he was running away from guys half his size,” Chaney said. “It’s just a testament to his hard work. He identified the problem and worked on it.”
Judging by the volume of phone calls he receives from Division I coaches about Curry, Chaney believes his feature back is headed full steam toward his goal.
Yet, he warned Curry that running backs don’t tend to blow up on the recruiting circuit as early as receivers.
“He’s got two seasons left,” Chaney said. “I told him not to rush it. I don’t put much stock into a lot of those offers. You never know what’s going to happen until he’s at that table signing.”
The Big 15
The News-Press and Naples Daily News will be counting down the top football recruits in Southwest Florida every Tuesday and Friday until the start of the high school football season. The Big 15 features players going into their junior and senior years from Lee and Collier counties, with respect paid to those with hard scholarship offers and those without who possess great potential.
The Next 15
22. Blane Briggs, LB, First Baptist Academy: The 5-foot-10, 206-pounder finished with 76 tackles (eight for a loss) last season and is verbally committed to Colgate.