Recruiting fans across the country are familiar with John Curtis Christian School, as the Patriots have sent graduates all over the nation to play college football. For example, Reggie Dupard (SMU), Jonathan Wells (Ohio State), Chris Howard (Michigan), and Joe McKnight (USC) are all former star running backs at Curtis.
This week, Curtis Head coach J.T. Curtis Jr. goes for his 500th career win, a benchmark reached by only one other prep football coach: John McKissick of Summerville, South Carolina. The River Ridge (suburban New Orleans) school was founded in 1962 by Curtis' father, Reverend J.T. Curtis Sr., who passed away in 2005.
"I expect he's watching from the big grandstand in the sky and has a lot of folks with him," said Curtis of his father. "I hope he's proud of the way we conduct ourselves and carry on the values that he inculcated in the school. We try to be kind and understanding, and at the same time competitive.
"One thing most people don't know is that he spent 30 years ministering to the homeless in the inner city. He reached out to alcoholics and drug addicts to help them attempt to restart their lives."
It's been a hectic, albeit extremely rewarding week for Curtis, who coaches alongside a number of relatives at the close-knit school.
"I'm glad we don't do this every week, because that would be hard," he quipped. "There has been a lot of distraction, but the players have done well with keeping their focus. Jonathan Wells flew in from Ohio and has already spoken with the team. Reggie Dupard is expected to come in from Dallas. His daughter is a model and they had some other obligations, but we hope both of them will be here. It's good for our kids to see those guys. They're role models.
"We have nice things planned for the game. At halftime, we're going to introduce players from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000. We want to get a big picture of everyone and we have a video that will review the school's past."
Last year, Curtis was elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. His plans for the future? One day, one game at a time.
"I've had several questions this week about why I never went into college coaching," he said. "That opportunity presented itself, but I never felt like that was where God was leading me.
"We feel good about where our program is. We have a no-cut policy where we don't cut any kids from the team. A lot of work goes into it (being a Curtis football player) and the kids have always responded well. They know what it takes. That doesn't mean everything is always easy. There are bumps in the road."
And there is a proverbial pot of gold waiting by the side of the road this week in the form of Curtis' 500th career win, if the Patriots get past J.S. Clark.
Curtis' career record is 499-54-6. As mentioned earlier, his staff includes several relatives, including sons Jeff and Johnny. The Patriots have won more state championships than any other program in Louisiana.
Top prospects on this year's squad include Dillon Gordon (LSU commit), DE Torrey Bell (Mississippi State commit), LBs Duke Riley and Eric Thomas, RBs Sherman Badie, Tevin Horton and Raekwon James, DBs Brandon Porter, Jacolby Cooper and Terrance Alexander, and OL Brandon Godfrey and Anthony Taylor. Only Gordon and Bell are seniors; the remainder are underclassmen.