This past April, Kam Curl was Washington's second-to-last draft pick in a class that included Chase Young and Antonio Gibson. Pair that along with the fact that the safety came into his first training camp fifth on the depth chart, and there wasn't a whole lot of intrigue surrounding his possible impact on the 2020 season.
One guy who quickly became enamored with the Arkansas product, though, was coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Leading up to camp, Del Rio would watch Washington defensive backs coach Chris Harris quiz his players on Zoom, and despite having not touched an NFL field yet and not getting to experience a new system firsthand, Curl consistently responded quicker than most if not all of his peers. That was when Del Rio figured the franchise might have found something in the Day 3 choice.
"It was very telling," Del Rio told reporters on Thursday. "As coaches, we're saying, 'This guy's impressive. This guy's sharp. This guy gets it. He's a quick thinker.'"
"I've been playing football since I was six," Curl said a few minutes after Del Rio spoke. "I love football and I love learning about it. Every level I go to, they tell me I catch on fast because it's pretty easy for me to understand, but then again I like learning about it. I was just engaged."
Curl's thinking isn't the only thing that's been quick in his rookie year; his ascension into the lineup has progressed rapidly, too.
When free agent signing Sean Davis was cut before Week 1, most looked at that move as an indicator that the Football Team believed in Troy Apke. However, Curl's almost instant growth — he made more and more plays in Ashburn as July turned to August — had to have been a factor as well.
Then came Apke's disappointing performance in the early contests and Landon Collins' Achilles injury in late-October. Because of those outcomes, Curl went from reserve contributor to a pivotal part of the defense. And with Deshazor Everett landing on I.R. on Thursday because of a pectoral issue, Curl's now even more vital.
That means, in a span of roughly five months, No. 31 has vaulted from the fifth option at safety to the first one. Make no mistake about it, though; the circumstances have helped that climb, but his production has more. Curl's intelligence is evident each Sunday he suits up, his tackling is quite reliable and, as he displayed with his pick-6 versus the Niners, he can entirely alter the flow of a game.
Yet as the excitement around his potential short-term and long-term impact in Washington builds, Curl remains supremely calm. The DB that Del Rio labeled as "kind of unflappable" was prodded with numerous questions Thursday about all of his success and he answered each in a chill tone and with a dose of humility.
He even had an opportunity to slam the talent evaluators who clearly missed something about his skill set throughout the draft process, and for a moment, it appeared like he would take it. That moment soon passed.
"Some teams messed up," he said. "But it's all good."
Del Rio and Washington would agree.