The Redskins Rookie Review series is presented by Medliminal, the Official Health and Wellness Partner of the Washington Redskins.
Kamren Curl was 5 years old when he fell in love with football. He had just started watching the NFL and was hooked.
"I want to get there. I want to get to that level."
His journey towards achieving that goal began a year later, and it's taken him from California to Oklahoma to Arkansas, where he was a three-year starting defensive back for the Razorbacks.
By that point, Curl had already established himself to be a pro prospect. It was just a matter of which franchise would take a chance on him.
And with the 216th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins made Curl's dream a reality.
"Going into the draft, I was just hoping to hear my name called," Curl told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael.
"It didn't really matter what round. But as you're sitting there during those three days, it can get frustrating, irritating. They made me wait a little while, but I got my name called, and I'm grateful for that."
A San Diego, California, native, Curl moved to Oklahoma during middle school and attended Muskogee High School, where he became a three-star recruit with more than 20 Division I scholarship offers.
Several of them were from Big 12 schools, including Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma, but Curl was set on playing in the SEC. He thought that was the premier conference in college football and yearned to compete against the best.
His options were Arkansas and Ole Miss; he chose the Razorbacks.
"When I realized I could [make the NFL] was probably when I started getting offers in high school and went to college," Curl said. "It was like, 'I'm this close now, so I feel like I could do it. I just gotta keep pushing.'"
Despite entering college as a safety, Curl started every game at cornerback in 2017 due to injuries. It's every freshman's dream to start right away, Curl said, and he was doing so in the nation's best conference.
He recorded 46 tackles that season and broke up a career-high eight passes, but more importantly he sharpened his coverage skills, especially in 1-on-1 situations. That experience made Curl an even more desirable prospect come draft day.
"Kamren is a safety that started at corner so he's got cover skills, so he may be able to come down into the slot and cover receivers," head coach Ron Rivera said. "That's something that we have to find out."
Over the next two seasons, Curl started a combined 22 contests at strong safety and stuffed the stat sheet with 129 total tackles, seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two sacks. He also hauled in two interceptions, both of which came in 2019.
One of his proudest moments was his performance against reigning national champion LSU. Arkansas was no match for LSU when the two programs met Nov. 23, 2019, as they fell in a 56-20 defeat. But despite the lopsided result, Curl played one of his best games that day with a difficult pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against one of the best offenses in college football history.
After a junior campaign that included a career-high 76 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown, Curl forwent his final year of collegiate eligibility to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
At 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, Curl has the size to play safety in the NFL. He also impressed scouts with his strength at the NFL Combine by doing 24 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press -- tied for the most among all defensive back prospects.
Curl talked to special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor and defensive backs coach Chris Harris at the combine, so he knew the Redskins had interest. About two months later, Curl received a call from Rivera; after days of waiting, Curl was going to Washington.
"[Rivera] was just telling me he was happy to have me. I was telling him I was excited to come put the work in," Curl said. "He didn't really tell me what to expect, really. I'm just ready to get the work in and help the team as much as I can."
Curl does not specifically model his game after one player, but he prides himself on having a high football IQ, playing fast and creating turnovers. He also believes he's one of the more versatile defensive backs in this draft class because of his ability to line up at safety or corner.
Plus, Curl will have a strong mentor in perennial Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, who led the Redskins in tackles in 2019. Curl has been watching Collins since he played at Alabama, so he almost cannot believe he'll be playing alongside him.
"It's going to be crazy," Curl said. "It's going to be surreal."
After months of speculation, Curl is ready to introduce himself to the NFL. He's ready to don the burgundy and gold and represent the nation's capital. He's ready to meet his new coaches and teammates.
But above all, he's ready to reconnect with the game he loves.
"Getting on the field, like that's what I want to do most. I just want to play football."