RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Everybody has dates in their lives that they will always remember. For Armstrong football player Edward Curtis, March 19, 2018, is one of those days.
“Me and my dad got some work for the combine,” Edward recalled. “I came home and I’m real tired, all he can tell me is he’s proud of me. The next thing I know, I wake up to my mom screaming.”
Edward’s father, Jonas, passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 40, leaving behind Edward, his mother, his brother and sister. All of a sudden, the eldest son saw his role change. He had transferred to Armstrong from Highland Springs shortly before his father’s death, so his support system stretched between the two programs. He remembered what one of his former Springer coaches told him shortly after the tragedy.
“Who’s going to walk your sister across the stage now when she graduates, when she gets married, whatever? I just felt like I had to grow up.”
“It’s just not about football, it’s about trying to be a better man,” Armstrong head coach Kenny Painter added, “trying to help the siblings become better people, becoming the man of the house.”
Edward said he’s always loved football and it was a bond he and his father shared. After Jonas’s passing, the sport became more important to him.
“We connected. That’s what I used to do every Saturday, rec games, or every Friday when I got to high school, to see a smile on his face,” remembered Edward. “Just to know how much I love that man, I’m going to do whatever I gotta do to continue to see the smile on his face.”
It certainly isn’t easy. Edward continues to work to improve himself both on and off the field, but there will always be that void in the stands that used to be filled by his biggest fan.
“Your dad’s watching. He’s out there. You’re not going to take one down off,” said Painter. “I would burn a timeout just to not talk X’s and O’s, but just talk mentally.”
“It’s hard some days like doing things on the field, achieving things not having him here directly beside me. It hurts, but at the end of the day, I feel like he’s still here,” said Curtis.
Part of the reason Edward can still feel his father’s presence- the lessons passed down from father to son, even if they could only be shared for a little while. Edward said ‘no pain, no gain’ was one of the most important things he’s learned from his dad.
“I can just hear him saying things that I never used to really want to do. Now I can force myself to do it because I can just feel him here rubbing off against me because I know he won’t go for it.”
Edward is handling the grief the best that he can and embracing his role. Last Friday, he signed a national letter of intent to play linebacker at Lincoln University, surrounded by family and with his father’s urn on the table.
“I felt like he was at the table with me."