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Most football fans in Wisconsin are passionate about the Green Bay Packers. But anyone associated with Lakeland College might also start developing an affinity for the San Diego Chargers.
Last Thursday, Lakeland College introduced Pro Football Hall of Fame Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow Sr. as the college's vice president for athletics and wellness.
If you know a little something about the history of Lakeland football, it was a "small world" moment.
Pat Curran, a 1972 Lakeland graduate and two-time football All-American, played four of his 10 NFL seasons as a tight end for the Chargers. Curran's final season as a player was in 1978, a year before Winslow's first in San Diego.
"Getting Kellen on the staff is a game changer for Lakeland," Curran said. "Kellen is so well known and respected. Having him lead the athletic program is going to open recruiting doors for Lakeland and help put the college on the map in some national circles."
After retiring as a pro football player, Curran served as business manager for the Chargers and later as a color analyst on Chargers radio broadcasts. Today he is a successful businessman working for Snap-on tools. He returned to Lakeland in June to deliver the keynote address during the athletic reunion banquet during the four-day 150th anniversary All-College Reunion.
Curran, who was raised in Milwaukee, attended Iowa State out of high school, but transferred to Lakeland. "I was lost at Iowa State," Curran said. "I loved the family atmosphere at Lakeland and I feel fortunate I went there."
Curran recalls vividly Winslow breaking into the league and the way, with the help of the offensive schemes designed by head coach Don Coryell and his staff, he made a lasting mark on football.
"Kellen re-defined what you could do with the tight end position," Curran said. "He was like a basketball player who played tight end."
Curran, a bruising running back at Lakeland, set eight school records and still holds every scoring record. He was NAIA honorable mention All-American in 1967 and second team All-American in 1968. In 1969, Curran was selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams, playing there six seasons before joining the Chargers.