will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com | May 3, 2017

One final, challenging semester wrapped up last week for Rennie Curran.

The 28-year-old Brookwood grad finished up the two classes, business law and finance, he lacked to receive a business degree from the University of Georgia. It was a long journey that was put on hold seven years earlier when he declared for the 2010 NFL Draft after his junior season with the Bulldogs.

While Curran focused on pro football at the time, his mother Josie made certain he didn’t give up on his education.

“She wrote a contract and had me sign it, made me promise (to get my degree),” Curran said earlier this week. “She hounded me even over the years about it. That’s how she got to this country (from Liberia), to get her education through Emory. She was adamant about it. … My dad (also Rennie) got his education in Liberia. My family all have college degrees. I’m the last one.”

Curran was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, who released him in 2011. The 2011 NFL work stoppage made it tough to find another NFL team, so he spent a few seasons in the Canadian Football League while pursuing his NFL dreams. After the 2015 season, he declined to return to the CFL and trained only for a shot in the NFL.

He recently joined preparations for The Spring League, which aims to be the NFL’s version of the NBA’s D-League, but tore his patella tendon in the third practice when he and former Auburn running back Ben Tate collided knees in a drill.

“I’ve been praying about whether to keep playing or not, whether to transition (away from football) or not, and that was my sign,” Curran said. “I’m definitely done (playing football). I left everything on the field. I have no regrets. I’m excited about the future.”

That future now includes a degree from UGA’s Terry College of Business.

He first returned to take classes in Athens after the 2012 football season, squeezing in a few classes in the spring when he wasn’t playing football, and kept going back. He initially spent his time in UGA classrooms before later taking online courses.

Throughout that time, he continued training for football, published a book (“Free Agent – The Perspectives of a Young African American Athlete”) and spent hours and hours on motivational speaking. He also had fatherly duties — his daughter, Eleana, is a second-grader.

With his playing career officially over, Curran is looking ahead to more goals. He continues regular work as a motivational speaker and life coach, but also plans to remain involved in football as a trainer. He just finished preparing a group of linebackers for the NFL while working for renowned sports trainer Chip Smith.

He hopes he is an example for some of those NFL hopefuls he trains.

“One of the things that motivated me was just being a role model for the next generation of students coming through and athletes who might go pro, might leave school early, or just people in general,” Curran said. “Sometimes life circumstances happen and you have to drop out of school, but if you have that determination and that perseverance, you can definitely do it. It might take a little more time. It might not be the conventional route, but it can be done.

“It’s going to be an amazing feeling Friday walking across that stage (at UGA graduation). That’s what I kept in my mind the whole time when I got discouraged, fell down. I kept in my mind walking across that stage, everybody being proud, my daughter being proud. That was my motivation.”

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.