Beyond the Game: De'Anthony Curtis tells his students to dream big


Many Arkansans may remember the name De'Anthony Curtis. A former Landers Award finalist, he was once one of the state's most promising high school football players. Then, he played for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Even De'Anthony can't believe what he's doing now: teaching keyboarding at a junior high school.

"I never thought that I would be a teacher. Growing up, I never thought," Curtis told KATV after one of his morning classes.

"[But] who am I to tell a kid they can't be what they want to be when I didn't experience as a kid what I wanted to be?"

As a senior at Camden Fairview High School, Curtis was ranked the No. 6 running back in the nation. His future could not have been brighter, and his college career began with a bang.

After a costly fumble against Kentucky in his freshman season, however, things quickly went south. Over the course of the next four years, he was moved from running back to fullback to defensive back to wide receiver to running back. When other athletes may have quit, complained or transferred, there was no doubting De'Anthony Curtis.

"As long as I had the Hog on my head and 'running through the A,' I didn't care where I was at, or what position I played."

Curtis signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, but his short-lived NFL career lasted only three games.

"I had it in my mind that I was going to get picked up by somebody else. That phone call never came.

"I said OK, it's time to get a real job.

He worked at a Sam's Club, AT&T store, and worked as an assistant football coach at Lyon College's startup program before becoming Barton Junior High School's newest teacher.

"He could've done a lot of things, being a graduate, being a Razorback, with his personality, with his smile. I'm sure he would've had all sorts of opportunities. But he wanted to make a difference," said Sherry Hill, the school's principal.

"Being around the kids is what I love doing," Curtis said.

His genuine connection with them is clear.

"It wasn't very far into the school year last year that I started noticing that he pretty much had a different handshake or high-five with half the seventh grade class," Hill said. "And I'm like 'wow!'"

His infectious personality makes him the perfect leader for a small reading group. He also coaches Barton Junior High's seventh grade football team and works as an assistant for El Dorado's varsity squad.

On this particular day, Curtis had assigned his students to write about what they want to be when they grow up.

"You can be whatever you want to be," he told the class.

The lesson plan is apropos. He is the best example that dreams are attainable, although life is unpredictable.

"Everybody knows sports are going to end one day. It's what you do after sports and I think I'm doing what I was called to do."

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