Coaches sometimes describe their players with the cliché of the player being a better person off the field than on it.
But when it comes to Ridge View defensive lineman Curtis Bey, every indication is that is a true statement. That takes a special person, considering Bey is a four-year starter for the Blazers and was recently named to the Shrine Bowl team pitting the Palmetto State’s best players against their North Carolina counterparts.
Bey serves as the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at his school and is involved in student government. But the most eye-popping experience for Bey came this past summer when he joined members of his church, Capital City Baptist Church, on a mission trip to Nicaragua.
His faith is so important to him that he has a deal worked out with coach Raymond Jennings that he is allowed to leave by 6:30 every Wednesday night so he can attend church.
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“That trip taught me so many things about life it was unbelievable,” Bey said. “The main thing it taught me was how to prioritize in my life. I put God first, then my family, school and football. It put a lot of things in perspective. It showed me how blessed we are to live in America. I was able to speak to over 1,000 people on the trip and despite the language barrier it was a very eye-opening experience for me.”
Jennings saw the difference in Bey as soon as he returned from the trip. In his 16 years of coaching, Jennings said he has been close to several players but none closer than Bey.
“The best thing about Curtis is his off the field character,” Jennings said. “What people see on the field is only a portion of what type of person Curtis is. That is not the best part of him. He’s very well-grounded in his commitment and his faith. Since that mission trip, he has a very strong commitment. ”
Raised in a single-parent household, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior made a commitment to Jennings as a freshman that he wanted to earn a college scholarship to take the financial burden off his mother.
Jennings has been tough on Bey at times but they both understood it was what was best for him to reach his potential.
“We don’t always talk about football. He calls me on the weekends and we talk about life and different stuff,” Jennings said. “My job was not to make him like me. My job as his coach was to make his dreams come true. He has always done exactly what I told him to do without questioning it.”
The selection to the Shrine Bowl surprised Bey. He said it was a goal at the beginning of the season but when he found out that he had earned a spot he was ecstatic.
The numbers he displayed playing along the line with Obinna Ntiasagwe, a North-South selection, have helped the defensive line become Ridge View’s strength. Bey has 64 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two hurries, one caused fumble, and one recovered fumble from his defensive end position.
“I thought about all the individual goals before the season started but I never really worried about it,” Bey said. “I was more focused on team goals but it’s definitely a huge honor and I’m just blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to represent my family and school in such a prestigious game.”
While Bey has manned the defensive end position for the Blazers, Jennings believes he could play a number of spots on the college level.
“He can play offensive line, defensive tackle or defensive end,” Jennings said. “He’s rangy; he’s smart and can move. The reason I haven’t moved him from the D-line is he can pop those hips and lock out. There aren’t a lot of defensive linemen on the high school level that can do that.”
Bey has four scholarship offers — the Naval Academy and Furman top the list — and he is hoping the week of practice at the Shrine Bowl might garner more attention.
But before Bey worries about his future, his focus is on tonight when Ridge View (6-4, 3-1 in Region 4-4A) battles rival Blythewood (8-2, 3-1) with a guaranteed playoff spot on the line.
Bey has never defeated Blythewood and has never made a playoff appearance in his career. He said those two benchmarks are his immediate goals.
“This is the best year we’ve had since I’ve been here and it would be special to be able to defeat Blythewood,” Bey said. “Our team has grown a lot closer this year and we’re a brotherhood. I don’t know how it’s going to work out but our passion is there to win and make the playoffs.”