The dream was so vivid that that it woke Rennie Curran out of a sound sleep at 4 a.m.
In his dream, a boy goes on a journey to figure out his identity. He meets people along the way — a fireman, a doctor and an athlete. Each one teaches him about building character.
Curran, 28, a former Georgia Bulldogs linebacker and professional football player, jumped up and began drawing.
“The most important lesson is that a star is a star no matter what,” said Curran, who lives in Chamblee. “No one has to tell it to be a star, it just shines. Lots of kids need to hear this message.”
The result of that dream is “What Does It Take to Be a Star?” — a self-published inspirational children’s book by Curran and his 8-year-old daughter, Eleana. It’s illustrated by longtime friend Dylan Ross.
Copies are available on Curran’s website (renniecurran.com) and are soon to be at select retailers.
The book teaches children about the value of a strong work ethic, patience, self-control and leadership.
The Currans will discuss and sign copies of the book at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. NW, Atlanta. The event will include a silent auction, music, food and a balloon artist. Tickets are $25 for general admission (includes admission for a child and a parent and a copy of the book) and $55 for VIP. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.
Curran will host the evening with other celebrity friends, including Ovie Mughelli, former Atlanta Falcons player and author of “Gridiron Green” comic book series; Stevie Baggs, former professional football player, inspirational speaker and author of “Greater Than the Game”; and Johnny Rutledge, author of “Grant’s Sports Adventures: Math and Football” and a former player with the Arizona Cardinals and the Denver Broncos. Proceeds from the event will support the Larry Asante Foundation.
The story is similar to lessons Curran has learned throughout his life.
Curran, a motivational speaker and musician who plays drums and guitar, grew up in Atlanta and Snellville. He was born to Rennie and Josie Curran, both of whom came to the U.S. from Liberia in the 1980s. His mother is a nurse, and his father owned a shoe-repair shop and now works in retail.
“It wasn’t what they told me, it was more of what they showed me,” said Curran, the youngest of three children. “I saw how much they sacrificed for their families. They taught me to be selfless and how to handle challenges.”
Liberia was embroiled in civil war, and Curran said his parents would send money, food and clothes to help their relatives and others back home. They also helped other relatives move to the United States and start new lives.
Along the way, he learned life lessons from his pastor, coaches and school chaplains.
When he was told he was too short to play college and professional football, he didn’t give up, he just dug in harder.
“According to statistics, I shouldn’t even have played in Georgia,” said Curran, who went on to become a three-time All-American.
“I knew football was bigger than just me achieving my dreams,” he said. “I understood at an early age that it was just an opportunity for me to help my family, the community and represent Liberia, even though I wasn’t born there. It was a way to provide hope to a lot of young people.”
That grounding even helped Curran keep life in perspective as he played for several professional teams.
“I always wanted to write a children’s book, but when the vision hit me, I knew I had to do it,” said Curran, who wrote “Free Agent: The Perspectives of a Young African American Athlete” in 2013. “I feel these things don’t just come, they’re divined.”
Eleana, a student at Spalding Drive Elementary School and a soccer player, was his sounding board.
“I knew this had to come from a child’s perspective,” he said.
Eleana said it was “amazing” to work with her dad on the book.
She turns to him for advice.
“When someone hurts my feelings, he says, don’t let that stuff get into you,” she said. “Haters are going to hate.”
When she goes back to school, Eleana, who loves math, will be a published author, something she hasn’t shared yet with her classmates.
She wants to write another book. Perhaps with her dad or on her own.
“This was an amazing opportunity,” she said.
Curran has learned to listen to his inner voice. At one point, Curran, whose middle name, Flomo, means “protector” or “provider” in Kpelle, one of the languages spoken in Liberia, was anxious to get back into professional football. During a practice, he and another player collided.
The news wasn’t good. Curran suffered damage to his patellar tendon and required surgery.
What did this mean for his dream of returning to the NFL? He prayed about it. Would God make a smooth route back into the NFL or shut that door?
He got his answer.
“This was confirmation from God that I needed to move on from football,” he said. “Lucky for me, I’d already built a brand as a speaker and author. I’m doing more of what I love to do and I’m having more impact. … I feel like I’m still making plays, it’s just a different field.”