Chase Curtis’ focus has been on Neosho County Community College baseball for the past two years. But last year, he was pondering playing another game, one for which he has unconditional love.
Those thoughts led to action. A little more than two weeks ago, while at home in Pittsburg, Curtis signed a letter of intent to transfer to Division I Texas Christian University to play football where he will be a sophomore in eligibilty. By June 17, the former NCCC infielder and outfielder was on the TCU campus prepping to be the best quarterback he can be.
Curtis said he is excited to make the move to Fort Worth, Texas.
“Well coming down here and seeing the stadium and everything, it’s kind of surreal,” Curtis said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was really little and just hoping one day I can play and everybody back home can watch me on TV is just really cool to me.”
Curtis also thought it was cool to sign with head coach Steve Murry and NCCC two years ago. At Pittsburg High as a baseball player, Curtis started as a freshman, was named Defensive Player of the Year three times by PHS, was an All-Area first team member, and was an All-League first-team player.
Those accomplishments stood out to Murry, and the three-decade baseball coach believed Curtis could help his team. But Murry also knew Curtis was a standout football player at PHS. He was a two-year starting quarterback, and as a senior, racked up 17 touchdown passes, 1,512 yards passing, nine rushing touchdowns, and 215 yards rushing in 11 games. This led to being first-team All-State, All-League, and a Kansas Shrine Bowl quarterback.
So Murry took this into consideration two years ago, and had that conversation with Curtis. It helped that Curtis enjoyed playing baseball, was good at the game, and that folks were in his ear telling him how good Murry’s Panthers are, even though football has always been his true passion.
“We discussed that at length before he signed,” Murry said. “He was smaller then. He told us this year that the football opportunity had come and he was excited to see what his bigger body could do. It is an excellent opportunity for him and I am excited to see what he does.”
Curtis, who put up a .229 average with 11 hits, nine RBIs and a .271 slugging percentage in the 2019 season and hit .256 with 11 hits, 11 RBI and a .395 slugging percentage in the 2020 shortened season, grew and added weight from 6’3” and 175 pounds to 6’5” and 212 pounds within that time span.
His frame and his urge to play football ballooned over the past several months – a trip back home last winter break that included some football workouts assisted the process – and while Division II schools were interested in Curtis for baseball, TCU, Pittsburg State University, and others were also interested in the student-athlete for football.
Although Curtis’ goal wasn’t to play at TCU all along, he said he would have played for any D-I school that offered. When his goal of playing football was set, he sent out highlight videos to schools, which spurred TCU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie to reach out to Curtis right before the beginning of the 2020 Panthers baseball season. A visit to TCU on March 15 was scheduled, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.
Still, the video seeds planted germinated into a fully-developed signing tree by June. Curtis, who had a 3.92 GPA in high school and a 3.89 GPA at NCCC, is attending TCU on an academic scholarship with the potential to earn an athletic scholarship. He recalled when he made his final decision.
“We were still playing baseball. I was still weighing my baseball options because I wasn’t 100 percent ready to be done playing baseball, but after the whole season got shut down, I just figured the best thing would be to play football,” Curtis said.
Curtis has been on the TCU campus for about a week, but he hasn’t been permitted by the team to work out and compete amongst players. And even though he hasn’t played football for two years, Curtis said he has confidence in himself to play again at a high level and can take the advice Murry often gave his players.
“One thing he always said: ‘There’s only two people that are going to feel sorry for you, and that’s your mom and grandma,’ and that always kind of stuck with me through pretty much everything,” Curtis said. “I know that no one cares. I can’t look down on myself. I’ve just got to get back up and go 100 percent at whatever I’m going to do.”
Coming from Southeast Kansas, he feels as though there are many doubters who think he doesn’t have a chance to see the field because he hasn’t played football for so long. And despite COVID-19 preventing athletes from practicing in official capacity, he has been participating in some drills to help him rise above that spread-offense competition: freshman quarterback Max Duggan from Council Bluffs, Iowa and freshman quarterback Matthew Downing from Alpharetta, Ga. will assist Curtis in trying to improve a 2019 5-7 TCU record.
So far, doing power cleans, bench press and back-squat workouts while studying defensive schemes and throwing route combinations have been preparing Curtis for the Big 12. In the classroom, Curtis will be a business major.
“I know I’m confident in my own ability and right now, I’m going to be working from morning to night every day trying to get a starting job and make people back home proud by being able to watch me on TV,” Curtis said.