Ken Norton Jr. and new Giants linebacker Aaron Curry exchange text messages to this day. It was Norton, Curry says, who taught him the life lessons that set him on a path to reclaim his once "can’t-miss" career. Norton, a former standout linebacker with the Cowboys and 49ers, came to the Seahawks as a position coach in Curry’s second season. By then, Curry said he was self-absorbed in his fame and fortune as the fourth pick overall in 2009, having signed a six-year, $60 million contract with $34 million guaranteed. Immediately inserted as the starting strongside linebacker, Curry admitted he would pout if he didn’t like a defensive call. His checkbook took precedence over his playbook, he remembered, and his needs and wants superseded those of the Seahawks. "Coach Norton was just honest with me," Curry said. "He would never let me slide on anything. He was harsh but I knew it was because he cared. He tried to get me to the point where I understood there was a certain way to be an NFL linebacker. It took some time." Norton is old-school. He adheres to the lofty linebacker standards set by the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Mike Singletary and Junior Seau. He pushed Curry to the limit. Tough love was just what Curry needed and he was making strides — Norton said he still shows tape of Curry to his young linebackers — until his balky knee and the weight of unfulfilled expectations led to him being traded to the Raiders after just 2½ seasons in Seattle. "There may have been some things that were distracting Aaron," Norton said. "Sometimes things have to happen to us as people, sometimes we have things taken away from us before we realize and appreciate what we have." Said Curry: "He’s a great coach. He said a lot of things to me that changed the way I saw a lot of stuff about the NFL, about life, the way you handle your business. I’m just grateful for all the wisdom and knowledge that he passed down to me. When I got to Oakland, I wore No. 51 because he wore No. 51. "A lot of days, all I thought about was how he taught me how to handle my business." During the summer before his junior year at Wake Forest, Curry came home to Fayetteville, N.C., and discovered he had no home. His mother and two older brothers had been evicted. "That was one of the biggest turning points of my life, where I realized I had to do something — football was it," Curry said prior to the 2009 draft. Lifting his family out of poverty was Curry’s motivation in college, where he won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in his senior year. So was the fact that only Wake Forest and East Carolina offered him a scholarship after a standout career at E.E. Smith High School. Then, Curry got paid and his competitive fire was extinguished. "To get picked fourth overall, the money replaced the poverty and solved a lot of the problems I had," Curry said. "The status kind of got rid of all my motivation. "Early in my career, I was just selfish and self-centered. I was more about me than I was about the Seahawks. It was immaturity, and I’m glad I got past that stage." Curry, 27, lost his starting job early in his third season in Seattle and was dealt to Oakland shortly thereafter. In 30 starts with the Seahawks, he had 156 tackles and just 5½ sacks. Admittedly, he didn’t give his all. "It was like I knew I could do it and I knew I would do it but I just think at the time I wasn’t interested in doing it," Curry said. "I was interested in other things and football wasn’t my top priority." Norton said it’s unfair to measure Curry solely by his sack total. He insists Curry’s stay in Seattle wasn’t all bad.
Giants Aaron Curry is ready to show he's an elite linebacker
Newark Star-Ledger | May 26