Johnny Curtis — assistant football, head baseball coach at John Curtis — leaving for Ball State _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- John Curtis head coach Johnny Curtis coaches against Evangel Christian Academy on Saturday during the Class 3A state championship at McMurray Park in Sulphur.

Johnny Curtis, assistant football coach and head baseball coach at John Curtis Christian School, calls it the toughest decision he’s ever had to make.

“Without a doubt,” he said.

Curtis, who has spent the past 19 seasons coaching under his father (legendary coach J.T. Curtis) has accepted a position coaching linebackers at Ball State University.

“It’s a leap of faith,” said Curtis, who will leave for Indiana on Thursday for his new position. “It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. This (Curtis) is a special place. We’ve laughed here. We’ve cried here. It’s family.”

At Ball State, he will join the staff of newly named head coach Mike Neu.

Neu spent the past two seasons coaching quarterbacks for the New Orleans Saints.

He also coached quarterbacks at Tulane and was head coach of the New Orleans VooDoo for two seasons.

“Everyone I talked to had nothing but great things to say about Mike Neu,” Curtis said.

Curtis has spent almost two decades coaching linebackers and serving as special teams coordinator for the Patriots under his father, the nation’s winningest active coach.

The school has a 235-22 record in Johnny Curtis’ 19 seasons as an assistant and has won 13 state championships.

“I’m both excited for him as my son and excited for the opportunity because he is working for a really good person,” J.T. Curtis said. “We have known Mike from his days with the VooDoo. This is something that Johnny has always had in the back of his mind with an interest in.

“It was an opportunity for him to branch out, and it’s a great position for him to be in. If for some reason it doesn’t work out, he’ll make another decision and he knows, obviously, he is always welcome back here.”

In addition to being football assistant, Johnny Curtis has served as the Patriots’ head baseball coach since 2006. He started with the baseball program as an assistant to his father in 1996. The Patriots have won three state titles since then, winning it all in 1996, 2006 and last spring.

Jeff Curtis, Johnny’s brother, will take over as the school’s head baseball coach.

Jeff Curtis has been an assistant on the baseball team since 2000 and has served as acting head baseball coach twice.

“It should be an easy transition for the players, the school, everybody,” Jeff Curtis said. “Johnny and I worked closely together for 16 years so things aren’t going to change. We are going to be who we are and do the things we have always done.”

Johnny’s son, Jay, a junior catcher and third baseman, will remain at Curtis and play baseball this season.

Johnny Curtis, meanwhile, will be in Muncie, Indiana, trying to help improve a Ball State team that finished 3-9 last season and 2-6 in the Mid-American Conference.

“I can’t say enough about what this place has meant to me,” said Curtis, a 1991 graduate of the school founded by his late grandfather. “John Curtis Christian School brings opportunities all across the country. Who would have ever though I would go up to Indiana. But God opened a door for me that wouldn’t close.”