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|Curtis fights through adversity, lands at Delta State|
The path to college football has been anything but ordinary for former Franklin Parish standout Wilson Curtis.
As a three-sport star at FPHS, Curtis was considered one of the top defensive prospects from northeast Louisiana out of the 2011 Class, but academic ineligibility prevented the rangy safety from landing on a college roster. With the encouragement of others and hefty dose of self-perseverance, Curtis polished his academics at Grambling State University over the last two years.
The hard work finally paid off over the weekend, as Delta State University granted a full athletic scholarship to the Winnsboro native.
"It's really a good feeling," Curtis said in a phone interview on the ride back from the Cleveland, Miss. campus Saturday. "This is what I've been working toward, to get a chance to get on the field again."
Curtis is currently completing his last course, an online class, that will solidify his eligibility. Upon completion he will enroll for summer classes at Delta State.
"He's truly a great story," Franklin Parish defensive backs coach Curt Curtis said. "He's a guy that's always had amazing work ethic, and obviously, God-given ability. But the adversity he's fought through since high school to get where he is today sets great example for our kids. You work hard and stay focused on your goals and good things will happen for you."
Coach Curtis said the two-time 2-4A all-district safety's past eligibility issues is a story of how early academic shortcomings can cripple cripple a transcript.
"Wilson's whole deal stemmed from his freshman year," coach Curtis said. "He would have been fine if you take that out of the equation."
Upon his arrival at Grambling, the 6-2, 215-pound defender entered a program that allowed him to work out with the redshirt freshman. Curtis completed nearly 30 hours of courses his first year, all while keeping his body in football shape in hopes of getting his chance on the gridiron again one day.
"He'd come down and work out with the defensive backs when he was home from school and in the summer," coach Curtis said. "We stayed at him and encouraged him, because we knew he needed to be playing football. He was doing everything he needed to do on the academic side to make that happen, so we hoped eventually someone would give him a shot."
That shot, which came to fruition over the weekend, stemmed from a relationship the talented defender formed while being recruited as a Patriot senior in 2011.
Listed as one of the top 10 defensive "sleepers" of the 2011 Class by Louisiana Football Magazine, Curtis received inquiries from every program in Louisiana.
Along with interest from LSU, Louisiana Tech and ULM, the hard-hitting playmaker was also on the radar of Arkansas and Ole Miss. But it was a then-assistant at Northwestern State University that especially took an interest in Curtis and kept in touch with him even after it was understood he would not be immediately eligible. Now two years later, Todd Cooley is entering his first season as head coach at Delta State and Curtis was a player he was determined to have roaming his defensive secondary.
"He (Cooley) stayed in touch with him and really helped advise him on what to do to get eligible," Franklin Parish athletic director and head football coach Barry Sebren said. "He saw potential and knew that Wilson was serious about taking care of his business."
Coach Curtis, who was Wilson's position coach at FP, said despite being out of football for the last two seasons he feels the athletic safety will make an impact right away, having bulked up nearly 30 pounds since high school graduation.
"He's put on some man meat for sure," coach Curtis said. "He was a guy that, by the time he was a senior, opposing offenses were scheming to stay away from. His work outstanding work ethic is equal to his athleticism and they (Delta State) are getting a great person, as well as a great player."
The FP coaches hope this serves as an example for players that have found themselves in similar situations concerning eligibility. One player specifically being linebacker Lorenzo Smith, who made the trip to Delta State with Curtis over the weekend and left coaches there in awe.
"He (Smith) blew it up over there," coach Curtis said. "They loved what they saw out of him."
Smith was a wrecking ball this season, tallying 83 tackles and six sacks, while forcing four fumbles and scoring a defensive touchdown. The 5-11, 235-pound linebacker was the spark plug of a Patriot defense that forced 30 turnovers. Smith reportedly dished out 24 reps of 225-pounds on the bench press over the weekend.
"His (Smith) situation is similar to what Wilson's was," coach Curtis said. "He's going to retake the ACT and we're hoping he'll be on a roster soon."