RENTON – Aaron Curry needed to find his comfort zone.
In one year, he moved to a new city. He married his college sweetheart, Jamila.
The couple had their first child, a son named Maxwell.
And Curry became a rich man at a young age, signing a six-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks for $34 million as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
So it should be no surprise that with the series of life-changing moments the Wake Forest product experienced, he went through some growing pains during his rookie season.
Curry finished fourth on the team with 60 tackles and had just two sacks in 14 games, failing to live up to high expectations heaped upon him as the most complete player in his draft class.
But Curry, 24, said he has put last season in the rear-view mirror.
“I’m completely over last year,” he said. “It’s in the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t have any regrets. I’m not going back to that season to try and change anything because I’m a complete different person. I’m a different player. I’m in a different scheme.”
Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said the team experimented with using Curry in a variety of ways last season. He played well at times for Seattle, particularly early in the season when veteran middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was on the field to act as a steadying influence for the high-motor athlete.
But once Tatupu’s season ended with a torn pectoral muscle in October, Curry’s play began to drop off to the point where he looked lost and a couple of steps slow on the field, particularly in his zone drops covering receivers.
Bradley said Seattle rectified those issues by returning Curry to the position he dominated while at Wake Forest, playing more on the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks also will attempt to take advantage of Curry’s rare physical talents by making him more of a pass rusher and making him attack the line of scrimmage on blitzes.
“I think he’s finding a little more of a comfort level,” Bradley said. “Last year, we had him doing a variety of things just to find out what he does best. I think now we’ve kind of locked in.
“We have an idea of what his strengths are, and we can’t just lock him into that one position. He’s doing a nice job at the line of scrimmage for us. He’s so strong. He may be one of our most explosive players on our whole team. And because of that, I think when he plays at the line of scrimmage, you’re seeing his strength show up.”
Curry said the change in focus has been a blessing.
“This year, I’m at home,” Curry said. “I’m doing what I did on film when I was in college. I’m doing the exact same thing as far as setting the edge, playing on top of the tight end and playing him man-to-man.
“Except for the additional pass rush stuff, I’m doing exactly what I did to get drafted where I got drafted at. So my confidence has skyrocketed just with the change of the scheme.”
Curry also has benefited from a coaching change, with new linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., in the fold. The former NFL linebacker and three-time Super Bowl winner has credibility with players because of his successful career. Norton said he instantly saw Curry’s talent once he started working with the young linebacker.
And Norton, who also coached Tatupu while at USC, said it’s a matter of teaching Curry the instincts and anticipation in order for the Wake Forest product to reach his full potential.
“He’s really taking his time and learning the game, understanding what the responsibilities of his position is. And understanding what his tools are and what he does best,” Norton said.
”He’s powerful. He’s strong. He’s really fast. And he’s a strong weapon. We have to do a better job of letting him do what he does best. And I think this year you will see him do a lot more damage in that respect.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said one of the first things he did when he took the job, even before his introductory press conference, was to watch film of Curry to figure out how to best use his unique skills.
The exhibition season has been a trial and error of putting that plan into motion. But so far Carroll likes the progress Curry has made, and believes the young linebacker can start to become the impact player fans expected last season.
“He has never been a premier pass rush guy,” Carroll said. “He’s been a linebacker that does a lot of dropping (into coverage) and all. And we’re trying to elevate that aspect of his game to help us because we need his speed on the edge and we’d love to see him coming off the edge with force and speed that will help us create some problems.”
Norton said that with patience and a bit of coaching, Curry will get there.
“Sometimes when you’re a big, strong guy like Curry, you’ve never had to use the anticipation before because your brawn was always good enough,” he said.
“A guy like Lofa has never been big or fast, so he’s had to rely on those things. So now if you take those two types and combine them, you’ve got the full package.”