Alum Jake Curhan signs with the Seahawks, shatters expectations

Setting up at the 10-yard line, the offensive linemen glare across the line of scrimmage as they position their hands in the dirt, looking to facilitate a score against their rival. As the ball is snapped, the right side of the line explodes towards the defenders in front of them, and No. 71 drives his man into the ground. This ferocious block opens up a gap for the running back, and he bursts into the endzone. The boisterous crowd booms as the 2019 Cal Bears score the necessary touchdown at the end of the first quarter to gain momentum in an eventual 24-20 victory against the Stanford Cardinals. No. 71, the offensive lineman who made the necessary block to ensure the win, was none other than 2016 Redwood alum Jake Curhan.

Positioning himself at the line of scrimmage, Jake Curhan prepares to hit the defender in front of him and take him out of play. (Courtesy of Jordan Warren)

After a phenomenal four-year performance at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), Jake entered the National Football League (NFL) by earning a Seattle Seahawks roster spot on Aug. 31, making him the third ever Redwood alum to play in the NFL. Although his impressive skills and abilities on the field are indisputable now, Jake had struggled when he first picked up the sport during his freshman year. 

“I wasn’t good my first two years … because just being [6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 270 pounds] doesn’t mean you’re good at football,” Jake said. “Finding the confidence to believe that I was good at what I was doing helped [my success] because playing offensive line is not a comfortable thing to do. You don’t know if you’re doing it right, and I can say that at this point I definitely wasn’t doing it right.”

While his career had a slow beginning, Jake was able to rapidly improve and was offered a position on the Redwood varsity team during his sophomore year, later becoming the starting right tackle (the far-right offensive lineman). Jake attributes much of his success to the teammates he played beside who motivated him to leave everything he had on the field. 

“There was a good group of guys that were dedicated to football and wanted to play in college … so we spent a lot of time every off-season working and lifting,” Jake said. “Just having older guys who helped me and believed in me was really [beneficial] … especially playing on the offensive or defensive line.”

During Jake’s senior year at Redwood, he played nearly 100 percent of the game as both offensive and defensive tackle. In the 2016 season, the team made the playoffs for the first time in several years, and Jake was voted Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) Lineman of the Year. 

While he was monumental on the football field, Jake was also a valuable contributor on campus. Not only was he a member of Peer Resource, but he also participated in the Environmental Action Club for three years and received California Scholarship Foundation and Redwood Honors Society awards. Raving about Jake’s character, physical education teacher Todd Van Purseum reminisces about the immense impact Jake had on the students and people around him. 

“Since he stepped foot on [campus], he was one of the most memorable students I’ve ever had the fortunate opportunity to come across. He enriched the experience of other humans on this campus just [with] his positively contagious presence,” Van Purseum said.

Because of his robust extracurriculars and vast intellectual capacity, Jake aspired to attend an academically focused university. Jake ultimately narrowed down his choices to UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia based on academic rigor; however, when making the final decision, Jake chose UC Berkeley because of their high caliber football, education and close proximity to home. 

Wanting to acclimate to college-level football, Jake made the decision to graduate from Redwood a semester early his senior year. He says his decision was immensely beneficial, allowing him extra time to situate himself with higher-level football.

“In terms of football, the transition was very different; it gets a lot more complicated when you go from high school to college, where everyone gets a lot bigger, a lot stronger and a lot better,” Jake said. “That part was tough and I struggled with that confidence piece of thinking, ‘Can I really compete with these guys and figure it out?’ It took me a semester and a half, but I started believing in myself and figuring I could do it, and [my college career] took off from there.”

Pushing through the defensive line, Jake forcefully creates an opening for his running back. (Courtesy of Al Sermeno – KLC fotos)

Aside from Jake’s outstanding grit and determination, Cal Bears’ offensive line coach Angus McClure says Jake was able to be successful on the field due to his vast amount of football knowledge. 

“[Jake’s] a really special player because he has not only [the] athletic talent and size for his position, but he has a high football IQ, meaning he’s a very intelligent player. I knew right away in my early conversations with Jake that not only was he going to be a leader, but he was going to be able to help other [offensive linemen] learn the playbook,” McClure said.

Jake was more than just a captain on the field, though; he was an influential figure on UC Berkeley’s campus too. In fact, he, along with other Pac-12 football players, threatened to opt out of his 2020 season if their demands for fair compensation, enhanced safety and improved social injustice conditions for college athletes were not met. With COVID-19 on the rise at the time, the movement was increasingly important and gained national recognition. By the end, the movement resulted in increased COVID-19 testing for players and ultimately prevented an outbreak within the Pac-12, since several athletes tested positive. Jake’s mom, Randi Curhan, commended him for maintaining his morals and beliefs throughout the process.

“[Jake] stood up to justice, and he doesn’t ever fold to peer pressure,” Randi said. “I’m very proud of him for that, and I’m very impressed that even though he wanted to be in the NFL, he didn’t let it jeopardize [his values].”

Jake’s strong values were carried into football too. Cal Bears’ tight end Collin Moore, who attended San Marin High School and has known Jake since sixth grade, claims that much of Jake’s success was derived from his unyielding work ethic and passion for football.

“[Jake] was always a guy that never missed a voluntary workout, was always showing up early, never missed a rep [and] never skipped a lift. He would always do the extra little things that ultimately help propel you to become an NFL player like he is now,” Moore said.

Although Jake solely played right tackle during his time at UC Berkeley, he was pushed to learn other positions for the Senior Bowl, a college football all-star game for seniors that occurs after the season ends. Coach McClure explains the ability to play on both sides of the field is wildly impressive and generally compares it to being a switch hitter in baseball. Yet, the path to becoming sufficient on all sides of the field was not simple, and Jake had to invest many hours into training until he was confident.

“The difference between the positions is at tackle, you are working with a lot of space, but at guard, you are working with no space. So, it took me a really long time to figure out and start getting comfortable without space, and I’m still working on getting more comfortable,” Jake said.

Because of Jake’s high football IQ, he is now able to play four of five offensive line positions, becoming a valuable asset coming out of UC Berkeley. Alongside Jake’s ability to play on all sides of the field, he now stands at 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 316 pounds; both were key contributors to his 4th-7th round draft projection going into the NFL Scouting Combine. The combine is generally an event that highlights players’ talents and potential impact on an NFL team through a number of drills and physical tests. However, because of COVID-19, the combine had to be truncated, changing the assessment to solely evaluating the athletes’ medical conditions and injury potential. 

Unfortunately, Jake’s medical assessment came back poor due to a minor heart issue. Although he was projected to be a top 25 drafted linemen prior to the combine, this caused him to not be selected in the draft, despite the fact that tests from medical professionals concluded that his conditions would not affect his play. Thankfully, the negative evaluation did not prevent NFL teams from keeping interest as the Seahawks quickly signed him as an undrafted free agent. Despite not being selected in the draft, Jake was excited about his chance to compete for a roster spot on a team that valued him as a player.

“Seattle just seemed like the best place for me to go. It’s a really great organization and they have a track record of giving undrafted guys a chance to make the team and make the roster, whereas a lot of [other teams] don’t necessarily give you the time of day,” Jake said.

After proving his skills and grit in training camp over the summer, he was awarded a spot on the Seahawks’ 53 man roster. To date, he has played in five games, mainly contributing via special teams and as an offensive tackle. On Oct. 25, Jake solidified his backup spot as the Seahawks’ right tackle in Seattle after beating out veteran Cedric Ogbuehi. While Jake is still an amateur in the NFL, Moore is extraordinarily optimistic about Jake’s future.

“[Jake] is going to keep doing what he is doing. Jake has honestly found a way to overcome every obstacle, … so I won’t be surprised if 10 years from now Jake showed up to my wedding still an NFL player,” Moore said. “Regardless of how well he does in the NFL, just being able to make it there, especially being a kid from Marin where sports isn’t the number one priority, is extremely impressive.”