FOX Sports on MSN - NFL Draft - Cancer survivor will join Curry at draft
NEW YORK - Even during a quiet Midtown Manhattan lunch Thursday, Aaron Curry couldn't escape the NFL Draft hype.
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Above his table was a television flashing updates about the contract impasse between Detroit and quarterback Matt Stafford — a standoff that could lead to Curry, the former Wake Forest linebacker, being the top overall pick instead. To his left was a giant video ticker with a mock draft predicting Curry would be selected Saturday at No. 3 by Kansas City.
None of this speculation mattered to Curry or made him neglect the ribs on his plate for long. That's because Curry already is soaring higher than any team could ever choose him.
Sitting with Curry were the people who mattered most this draft weekend: His mother, his agent, and a father and son he hadn't even met until two weeks ago.
Curry didn't just befriend 12-year-old Bryson Merriweather during a visit to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. Curry invited the recovering leukemia survivor and his father Lorace to attend draft festivities with him in New York.
The sightseeing began Thursday morning atop the Empire State Building, followed by video games after lunch and a shopping spree at Nike Town. The Merriweathers will hang with Curry all weekend, including backstage when the draft is held Saturday at Radio City Music Hall.
Curry posed with 12-year-old Bryson Merriweather of Madison, Ala., at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. (St. Jude Hospital / Associated Press)
"When I told the NFL about what Aaron wanted to do, they said this was unprecedented," agent Andy Ross of Octagon said Thursday. "There's such limited space in the Green Room for people to have around you. Who takes that opportunity to do something for someone else?
"Most people look at players as 'me, me, me' guys. Aaron is a 'you, you, you' guy. He's not just setting an example for players. He's setting an example for all of us."
Curry's football prowess is well known. He won the 2008 Butkus Award as the NCAA's top linebacker. He tallied 105 tackles as a senior, including 16 for losses. And Curry was brilliant in pre-draft workouts, cementing himself as the most complete NFL prospect at his position.
But what Curry has done off the field is equally impressive.
Bringing the Merriweathers to New York isn't a stunt for positive publicity. There were no cameras rolling when Curry tutored elementary school students at Wake Forest, visited cancer patients at a nearby hospital or bought Christmas presents for underprivileged children.
Curry says he performs such selfless acts because he is "just trying to do something to influence the life of someone else." Curry credits his mother, Chris, as well as Wake Forest coaches Jim Grobe and Brad Lambert for providing such inspiration.
Curry said he became heavily involved in community service after Lambert, Wake Forest's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, passed along a pencil that his young son Lane wanted to give him as a gift.
"He (Lane) was at school thinking about me while I was working out or watching film or something," Curry said. "That's what really made me realize how much we influence kids.
"I looked up to Michael Irvin, Lawrence Taylor and Emmitt Smith. I still look up to Ray Lewis. Because they wore that uniform and were in the NFL, I wanted to be like them. They had no clue. It's necessary for college and pro athletes to know that we're role models whether we like it or not."
Such perspective has helped Curry stay grounded during a tumultuous week. It's believed Curry already has a contract agreement in place with the Lions if they can't seal a deal with Stafford.
Curry, though, doesn't believe Detroit will pick him. Curry also swears he won't be bitter even though he will lose millions in guaranteed dollars the deeper he slides in the draft.
Curry is considered the top linebacker in the draft but doesn't believe the Lions will take him with the first pick. (Scott Boehm / Getty Images)
"In my heart, I think (the Lions) are going to get it done with Stafford," Curry said. "I know they have faith in both of us to become great players. They can't go wrong. They're really making their decision on a need basis. Quarterback for them is a more important need. I understand that."
Curry said he didn't have a "gut feeling" about where he will be drafted but would love to be reunited with a high school teammate. Coincidentally, defensive tackle Tank Tyler plays for the Chiefs.
"Kansas City would be the perfect scenario," Curry said. "I think it would be God's blessing that he put both of us back together again. When we were in high school, we made each other better every day in the weight room and on the practice field."
Funny he should mention E.E. Smith High in Fayetteville, N.C. When Ross tried discussing some draft-day scenarios Thursday, Curry changed the subject. He began talking about wanting to refurbish the school's weight room.
Wherever he lands, Curry plans to establish a charity foundation that will focus on helping single mothers and promoting St. Jude's leukemia research. He wants to work with Bryson Merriweather to promote bone-marrow donations.
"It's pretty cool to have someone like this as a friend," said Bryson, whose leukemia is now in remission after two years of treatment. "I never thought I'd get to be friends with someone who's getting drafted."
Where he will go, nobody knows. But Lorace Merriweather knows when Curry should be selected.
"He ought to go No. 1," Merriweather said. "He's got a No. 1 heart."