From Curry with love: an Atlanta love story
Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 12:02
For most couples, love develops over a period of time. But for head football coach Bill Curry and his wife, Carolyn Newton-Curry, no one thing could have been easier than deciding they would be together for the rest of their lives.
In sixth grade, Curry told his father that he would marry Carolyn. His father was elated, telling his son, "That's the best idea you've ever had."
Curry's attraction to Carolyn started after years of watching her go to the chalkboard to do long division and seeing her develop into a beautiful young woman.
But Curry still had some growing up to do — literally.
"She would not go out with me," Curry said. "But from sixth grade to 12th grade I grew a foot. She started to notice me a little bit, and it was then that we started dating."
His stature as a youngster plagued him not only as an athlete, but with the ladies as well. Before dating Carolyn, Curry dated her best friend, Sue Lunceford, who dumped him because he was too short.
"She said, ‘You were too short, so I was embarrassed to dance with you,'" Curry said.
Surprisingly, there was no animosity amongst the three, and they all remained friends until Lunceford's passing at age 59.
While in high school, Curry worked in downtown Atlanta at a shoe store, and Carolyn worked as a model for Rich's. Their relationship flourished throughout high school, where he played several sports and Carolyn cheered on the sidelines.
By the time the two graduated, the decision was made. He and Carolyn would be married. When Auburn, Clemson and the University of Georgia offered him scholarships, Curry turned them down so that he could attend Georgia Tech, but not because of academics or athletics.
"Everybody expected me to go to Georgia because my father was a Bulldog," he said.
He was torn between attending his father's alma mater and being close to his high school sweetheart, who enrolled at Agnes Scott.
"I got a map out and realized that Athens wasn't the closest to Agnes Scott, and it turns out it [Georgia Tech] wasn't that easy. Bobby Dodd was the coach, and he was a fanatic about his guys studying hard and going to class," he said. "And I was a very poor student…but I got to be close to the woman I loved and had the opportunity to play for a great coach."
Curry had a knack for making lifelong decisions at a young age, as he and Carolyn got engaged at 19 and were married by age 20.
Carolyn was the first person to allude to marriage, after Curry confronted her about rumors he heard that she was only dating him so she could sponsor him as an ROTC military officer.
"Not only is that not true," Carolyn told him. "But you're actually the kind of person that I would consider marrying."
He was pleasantly surprised and immediately wanted to accept her offer, but the two were only 17.
Two years later, he drove Carolyn to Piedmont Park, with his grandmother's (also his mother's) small diamond ring in tow and popped the question.
"I reminded her, ‘Remember that sponsor thing, you said something pretty rash, like you would consider marrying someone like me. Would you… marry me?'" he asked her.
He took a reflective pause while telling the story of how he made Carolyn Newton Mrs. Carolyn Newton-Curry. The Super Bowl Champion and award-winning college football coach struggled to find his words, wiping a single tear from his right eye.
"It chokes me up," he said. "48 years, and it's been wonderful. By far the highlight of our marriage is the quality of our relationship through many years of trial and error and some terrible, terrible mistakes by me…but she stayed, she stayed."
He regrets that he did not balance his time in the limelight and his life at home better, and even Carolyn says she "built three of the houses" herself. But as time went on, he learned from his mistakes and learned how to balance work and family.
"You could be great at anything working 60 hours a week — you don't have to work 90," Curry said. "And people who do it, male or female, are shortchanging their family. And I think it hurt our children, but they've both turned out to be great people because of their mother."
Both Mr. and Mrs. Curry note that the best product of their marriage is their extended family. "Bo" and "CiCi," the names given to Bill and Carolyn by grandson William Alexander III, enjoy the closeness of all Curry generations.
"The highlight of my relationship has been the children and grandchildren and the fact that we can communicate," Carolyn said.
But one year Curry made a costly mistake. Well, sort of.
"I have a reputation in the family, especially with Carolyn, that I'm really good at special occasions. I really love doing something special for her," he said. "The Valentine's [Day] before last I decided I'm not gonna buy her anything, I'm gonna write her a poem. I sent my mom flowers. I didn't get [Carolyn] flowers. [That] did not go over well."
Carolyn thought the change was the result of poor planning.
"I thought he had forgotten about me and just wrote a poem as a last-minute thing," Carolyn said.
For the Currys, success was not found on the gridiron or in the classroom, but at home.
"The best thing [about] our marriage is not that I'm a football coach or that she's an outstanding scholar from Georgia State," Curry said. "That's all occupational and directed at others, but our marriage is the basis to do these things."
Curry admits that his life as a football star has been great, but at the end of the day, his life is about him and his wife.
"If we stand for something, the best thing we got is our marriage."