His teammates referred to him as their “Jackie Robinson” for his role in integrating a football team and a community in Coral Gables. Now, more than 50 years later, Craig Curry’s been honored by the city.
The City Commission declared Tuesday “Craig Curry Day” in honor of Curry, the black quarterback of the Coral Gables High football team in the late 1960s. Former teammates, friends and family members all gathered to be part of ceremony.
Curry said the honor isn’t his alone. “The entire team was responsible for the accolades,” Curry said. “We all did this together and that’s why we have this close bond.”
Curry decided to transfer to all-white Coral Gables High in 1965, after all-black George Washington Carver High closed. The decision eventually would lead to him being part of one of the most dominant teams in Florida high school football history.
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“We were caught between two worlds, not accepted by the white community when we entered their territory and regarded as traitors by the black community when we left our territory,” Curry told the Miami Herald early this year. “We had to prove ourselves on both sides of this divide, and the best place to do that was on the field. Football was the great equalizer.”
But beyond the on-field success of the 1967 championship team, Curry and his fellow black teammates found a way to bridge gaps and calm racial tensions at the school and in the community.
Curry also credited his head coach, Nick Kotys, with taking a chance on him regardless of his race and the racial tensions of the time.
“Fortunately I had a coach that lived up to the creed that the best man gets the job,” Curry said. “He made some decisions at a time that were not popular. I’ve got to believe that some people on his side of the tracks were not too happy.”
That 1967 team, deemed the “Team of the Century” by the Florida High School Athletic Association, is also planning a reunion to honor its accomplishments.
Curry didn’t go on to an NFL career, despite being drafted by the legendary, undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. He was cut from the team at the end of the preseason and went on to work at IBM for about 16 years. Curry also worked at the collegiate level as an academic adviser and athletic director.
He now runs a college prep consulting business. He said his goal is to use his own example to encourage students and student athletes.
“I’ve got a real story to tell. When you get knocked down there can still be success when you get back up,” Curry said.
Curry’s daughter, Andrea Yancy, said it was a privilege to see him honored by the city and for her children to be there to see their grandfather’s presentation.
“It seems like every day I’m learning a lot more about him,” Yancy said. “[My children] can’t believe the stories and pictures and videos they see. They think he’s famous.”