Temple coach Gavin White had no idea how good a rower the freshman was, but when Grace Curran called and told him her son, Patrick, wanted to be an Owl, scholarship or no scholarship, he said fine.
"I didn't know he was this good," said White, who is in his 28th year as Temple's crew coach. "His work ethic is just amazing."
How good is Patrick Curran? Consider that the only other freshman stroke to become a fixture on Temple's varsity eight boat was Jason Read, who became a gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The timing of Curran's arrival couldn't have been better.
After winning the Dad Vail Regatta 21 out of 25 years, including 15 straight, the Owls saw their dominance end with losses the last two seasons. But during those two years, White had been building for this weekend's 69th Dad Vail on the Schuylkill. And the surprise addition of Curran may turn out to be the missing piece in Temple's bid to reclaim the gold medal in Saturday's glamour event.
"We could lose every race, but if we win at Dad Vail, the season is a smashing success," said White, emphasizing the importance the nation's largest collegiate regatta means to his crew. "But if you win every race and lose at Dad Vail, then the season is a disappointment. It's that big. It's what we shoot for all year long."
Curran, who rowed at tradition-rich Holy Spirit High School and is from Sea Isle City, N.J., is well aware of Temple's desire to return to the top in the varsity eight.
"We'd hate to be the crew that loses three in a row," he said.
Curran is also well aware of his family's connections to Temple, which is why he joined as a walk-on. Two of his uncles - Chris McCann and Tom McCann - also rowed for White. To him, rowing for Temple was a no-brainer, as long as he was good enough.
"I was really looking forward to rowing for Gav, and so far things are going great for us," Curran said.
Meantime, White is convinced that, along with the powerful stroke his main boat is getting from Curran, the team is collecting some good karma. White's rowing coach and predecessor at Temple was the legendary Tom "Bear" Curran, no relation to Patrick.
"With the last name of Curran, I feel this is definitely destiny that I have this kid stroking the boat," White said. "He's a pretty cool customer for a freshman. He's shown a lot of poise this year, so I've got a veteran crew with a freshman up front."
Rather than wait for the Dad Vail to test his crew's mettle, White took it to the SIRA Regatta in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the first time last month. He wanted to match it against other contenders in the Dad Vail's varsity eight. The Owls finished second to Virginia, which isn't in the Dad Vail. But they defeated defending Dad Vail champ Marietta as well as Purdue and Florida Tech.
"Although we beat them, we didn't beat them by a lot, so it should be a pretty interesting race this weekend," White said. "It gave our guys a lot of confidence."
In addition to Curran, Temple's varsity eight is seniors Dante Cammarata and Peter Gostling, and juniors James Harding, Thomas Haubrich, Robert Protesto, Nicholas Vlahos and the coxswain, Rory Roberts. Another junior, Don Powers, is the bowsman. Haubrich, Powers and Protesto were crewmates at St. Joseph's Prep, and Roberts is from Holy Spirit.
For the most part, this is the crew that has taken its lumps the last two years. But it seems poised to bring the Owls back to what they believe is their rightful place: gold medalists at the Dad Vail.
One thing is certain: Temple will get plenty of support from the Curran/McCann clan. Patrick said his uncles, Tom and Chris, will be in attendance, along with his father, Lawrence. He said his mother would be easiest to find. She'll be the loudest.
"Even when the whole crowd is screaming, I can pick out her voice," Curran said. "Gavin can't even go near her because she makes him nervous. So he tells my dad to keep her away from him."
Still, White's happy he answered Grace's phone call.
About the Dad Vail
Here are some facts and figures about the Dad Vail Regatta:More than 116 colleges have registered to compete Friday and Saturday on the Schuylkill.
The event is billed as the largest collegiate regatta in the United States.
The Marietta men and St. Joseph's women return to defend the varsity eight championships of last year.
The course is 2,000 meters long and starts just north of the intersection of Kelly Drive and Hunting Park Avenue. The finish is at the grandstand just above the Columbia Avenue bridge.
The course has six lanes and is Olympic length.
The Dad Vail is named for legendary Wisconsin rowing coach Harry Emerson "Dad" Vail.
Kelly Drive will be closed Friday and Saturday during the races, and traffic will be re-routed through Fairmount Park.
Results will be available after clearance from tower officials on www.dadvail.org.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo
at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.