By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Daiveun Curry-Chapman has been preparing for this season since the day he arrived on the Northern Arizona University campus. But this offseason the motivation behind his preparation took on a personal note when his family suffered a terrible tragedy.
On January 23, Tyrone Malcolm, his cousin, was shot in a drive-by shooting in Columbus, Ohio. It is a moment that has lived with the senior wide receiver for the last eight months.
“It is constantly on my mind,” said Curry-Chapman. “I told his mom, my aunt, that I would dedicate the season to him.”
Curry-Chapman wanted to make sure he remembered his cousin every time he stepped on the field this season. But the NCAA got in the way with new rule changes for the 2010 season.
In the past, student-athletes like Florida’s Tim Tebow popularized the writing of messages on eye black stickers worn during games. In fact, Tebow’s bible verse was googled 94 million times after the 2009 National Championship game and the new rule is unofficially called “The Tebow Rule.”
With the messages banned, Curry-Chapman came up with his own unique messaging with the help of a band aid and some athletic tape.
“The NCAA made a rule that we could not write on the eye blacks anymore so I decided to wear a band aid on the left side of my face to show a wound that would never heal,” said the Corona, Calif., native. “And I write his initials (RIP T.M.) on my back to remind me every day when I put my pads on that I am out here for him. The whole season is dedicated to him and his memory.”
Curry-Chapman is the lone senior on the depth chart among a wide receiver group looking to fill the void left by seniors Ed Berry, Conrad Meadows and Curt Sweeney, who combined for almost 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2009.
“When you lose the likes of Ed Berry, Conrad Meadows and Curt Sweeney, Daiveun will have to step up and be the guy this year,” said Head Coach Jerome Souers in the preseason.
It is a role he has been preparing for since 2007 when he was named the outstanding freshman on offense by coaching staff.
“Daiveun has gotten a lot better,” said wide receivers coach Francis St. Paul. “I have been with him every year. Every semester you can see how he gets better and wants to get better. He is not afraid to ask questions. He always wants to know how he can get better.”
He had four catches for 37 yards with two touchdowns playing with All-American Alex Watson in his first season. He saw action in all 11 games a sophomore, making seven grabs with a key touchdown against Montana State. His production increased again last season, resulting in 27 receptions and four touchdowns as a junior.
Curry-Chapman and the coaching staff are looking for a breakout senior year. Through two games, Curry-Chapman has seven catches for 88 yards and one touchdown.
“It is crazy,” said Curry-Chapman of his career. “It has gone by real fast. I remember the first day. It really zipped by.”
But he is taking nothing for granted this season, seizing the opportunity to be a leader on the team and among his position group.
“I don’t see it as pressure,” said Curry-Chapman. “I see it as an opportunity to get better coming out here every day. I think we are under the radar. We have a lot of good guys on the squad. I thought we put forth a good effort on Saturday night (against ASU). The best is yet to come.”
Curry-Chapman started the season with four catches and a touchdown in the season opener and had three receptions last week against Arizona State. But he is not satisfied.
“I am pretty hard on myself so I can always get better,” said Curry-Chapman. “I am trying to do what is asked of me right now. I feel like I am doing a good job.”
St. Paul likes what he has seen.
“He has stepped up in a leader role,” said St. Paul before practice on Wednesday. “Now he is doing it with the young guys. He is excited. He knows it is his time.”
Time remembered and treasured.
DID YOU KNOW…The Northern Arizona University athletics department ranked 78th to place among the Top 100 in the final Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings. NAU ranked among the top 100 schools for the seventh time in the last eight seasons and 12th overall in the last 14 years.