Kamren Curl didn't have an exact number in his head on where he thought he would be drafted in 2020. He was just hoping to be one of the 255 people to get their name called.
He had to wait until Day 3, but eventually the Washington Football Team did take him with the No. 216 overall pick. Curl knew the reality of being a seventh-round pick; in order to make the 53-man roster, there was even more of an emphasis for him to stand out.
More than a year later, Curl has done plenty of that on Washington's defense.
Curl has been a pleasant surprise for Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. After racking up 88 tackles and three interceptions during his rookie year, he's one his way to putting up similar numbers with 32 stops and two pass breakups. It took days of performing at a high level with a razor-thin margin of error, but now he's gone from an unknown to being a fan favorite.
"I know what kind of player I am," Curl said on "The Player's Club" podcast, "but as a seventh-rounder, you get the short end of the stick."
Curl knew heading into Washington's 2020 training camp that he needed to show his coaches he could play as quickly as possible. There was a list of more experienced safeties ahead of him, including Pro Bowler Landon Collins, so he couldn't take any plays off, never mind the fact that he was learning about the NFL in a truncated offseason.
It was expected that Curl would go through a learning curve, but the opposite is what actually occurred. He was a problem for Washington's quarterbacks, grabbing interceptions on an almost daily basis. As roster cuts drew nearer, Rivera consistently praised the safety for his growth.
"Every day he seemed to get better," Rivera said. "We just kept saying, 'He's got a high ceiling. He's not even scratching it yet.'"
Part of what made Curl so appealing was his versatility. Rivera and his staff already knew about that when they drafted him, but Curl was willing to play wherever they placed him. His coaches were surprised at how well he understood different concepts, and that stems from Curl's love for the game and his desire to learn as much as he can about it.
"My whole mindset coming into the league, I knew I had to take it to a whole other notch," Curl said. "I just knew I had to, because getting picked up in the seventh round, obviously what I was doing in college wasn't working. I had to take it to the next level, no matter what."
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Clearly, Curl's new habits are working. He's started in five of Washington's six games played in all 82 snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs. Pro Football Focus also ranks him as Washington's highest-graded safety.
Curl hears the chatter from fans wanting him to be on the field wanting him to play at different positions, but he doesn't like to get involved in all that. For him, he's all about the team. For a player who hasn't forgotten what it was like to fight for a spot, it's not a bad attitude to have.
"Whatever this team needs, that's what I'm doing," Curl said.
For more from Curl's interview with Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson and former receiver Santana Moss, download “The Player’s Club” podcast, which debuts new episodes every Friday.