Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray came back for his senior season with a chance to do something special. He already had thrown 71 touchdowns in 28 college starts for the Bulldogs, and the team looked to have something special brewing heading into 2013.
Then the season began.
Almost from the start, Georgia seemed cursed as a slew of players were hurt, leaving Murray to throw and hand off to inexperienced teammates, and the Bulldogs lost five games. Making matters worse, Murray tore his ACL in the penultimate games of the season, ending his often brilliant college career in brutal fashion.
Now the 6-foot Murray is trying to prove the doubters wrong as he rehabs and prepares for the scouting combine, his April 16 pro day and the draft a few weeks after that. Murray is participating in the NFL’s “Pressure Points” series, sponsored by Gillette Deodorant, which helps show fans his path to the NFL.
Murray has been training at the at the EXOS facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla., along with fellow draft prospects such as South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney and North Carolina TE Eric Ebron, to get ready for next week’s combine in Indianapolis. Murray took a few minutes to chat with the Shutdown Corner about his knee, working with the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff at the Senior Bowl, another short quarterback he emulates and whether his girlfriend is actually more famous than he is.
Shutdown Corner: So what’s the latest with your health and the rehab of your injured knee? Catch us up to speed.
Aaron Murray: It’s going great. I have been doing drops — five-step, seven-step — and throwing — 18-yard outs, comebacks, posts. The strength [in the knee] feels good. It feels great, actually. It’s funny: We’re doing these single-leg presses, and we can measure the force of impact, and my left [injured] leg is actually stronger than my right leg. So that’s pretty awesome. We’ve been getting after [the rehab], I feel awesome, and right now I plan to do everything at my pro day.
SDC: So when you say “everything,” what all do you hope to do physically? Run and jump and cut and twist and all that?
Murray: Definitely the goal, that’s definitely what I am aiming for. We’ve got two months to get stronger, too. The goal is to get out there and throw as many balls as I need to, move around, jump, run ... do some backflips if I can. Just show them I am healthy.
SDC: Show off, you mean.
Murray: You have to show off a little bit. [laughs]
SDC: I know you’re working with Gillette and the “Pressure Points” series to give people a snapshot of what you’re going through to prepare for the combine. What is the most grueling part of the process for you right now?
Murray: It’s a great series and a great chance for fans to see the stresses of every day training all day long, going to the combine and your pro day, meeting with scouts, coaches and GMs. It’s the biggest interview of our lives. You’re certainly excited, but it’s stressful and you’re trying every day to get stronger and faster and better. The great thing is, we’re with a bunch of guys who have the same goals and are trying to prove it and be the best players they can be.
SDC: You tweeted a pic of yourself throwing. You have to feel pretty confident of where you’re at right now. And yet it seems like the ACL rehab has a different timetable now than it used to be. Have Adrian Peterson and other remarkable athletes who come back fast ruined it for the rest of you guys?
Murray: I don’t know about that. I believe that by my pro day, I’ll be — if not 100 percent — pretty close to 100 percent. We’re really pushing the envelope 100 percent every day, and I feel great. Why wouldn’t I? I have some of the greatest doctors in the world working on me. They say, “You knee looks unbelievable.” They say I look like I am six, seven months out [from surgery] when I am really only three months out. You’d have to think they know what they are talking about.
SDC: Your decision to attend the Senior Bowl and be around the team all week even though you were not playing was roundly praised around the league. What did you take away from the experience of meeting with the Jaguars coaches and working with the team that week?
Murray: It was a great opportunity, not only to work with their staff but also to sit down with other teams’ scouts, GMs and coaches and describe what I did at Georgia, how I can dissect defenses, what I can bring to their team. Just to get that ball rolling was awesome.
SDC: The Jaguars are looking for a quarterback. What was your impression of the way Gus Bradley and Jedd Fisch ran their practices and meetings? High energy and tempo, right?
Murray: That was the first thing I was going to say. A lot of energy, a lot of fun. The horn would sound and you’d think, “Practice is over already?” You barely realized it. It goes by extremely fast. You’re having fun, you’re moving quickly, you’re competing. They threw a lot at everyone and did an unbelievable job.
SDC: If you have to boil it down to one or two qualities you feel are things that will make you successful in the NFL, what would you point to?
Murray: Definitely my work ethic. It has separated me and allowed me to get to where I am. My goal is to outwork everyone. That comes down to preparation, practice preparation, making sure I was on the same page as my teammates. That, and my leadership. I really feel like I have become a very good leader, implementing my work ethic to my teammates but also being vocal, encouraging guys and motivating guys when I need to. Offseason workouts, motivating guys to get stronger and faster during the season and before the season.
SDC: You’re not the tallest quarterback in the world, measuring in at 6-0 even at the Senior Bowl. But do you think that NFL teams are now more accepting of less-than-textbook height then ever?
Murray: I think so. That stereotype of the 6-4, 6-5 quarterback being the only successful ones is slowly fading. These shorter quarterbacks these days are proving them wrong. I mean, if you think about it, these offensive linemen are 6-4, 6-5, and you put a helmet on them, they’re 6-7 some of them. Unless you’re a 6-7 or 6-8 quarterback, you’re not really throwing over them; you’re seeing through windows and you’re needing good footwork and knowing what you need and where you need to be in your reads. You set up in the pocket, or out of it, and find that window and throw the ball. So for that, it doesn’t matter really how tall you are.
SDC: Is there a guy or two you particularly admire or emulate? I have one in mind I can imagine you’re fond of.
Murray: Definitely Drew Brees.
SDC: That was the guy I was thinking of.
Murray: [laughs] Yeah, that’s my guy. He’s someone I look up to a lot. He not only performs on the field, but what he does in the community and how he’s a tremendous leader for the team, getting guys to work hard in the offseason and getting them to perfect their crafts. That’s why I like him and admire him so much.
SDC: Did you ever feel this past season like, Why me? Your receivers and running backs drop like flies and then you suffer this injury late in the season, the team comes up short of getting into the SEC title game … it seemed like an avalanche after such a successful career.
Murray: It was, uh, definitely a crazy season. I think about seven of us tore ACLs. Every single week, guys were dropping like flies. It was a challenge. If you ask me if I regret coming back, I would say definitely no. This past season I grew as a person, I grew as a player. I am a lot better thanks to Coach [Mike] Bobo and Coach [Mark] Richt. They helped make me smarter and stronger and tougher.
SDC: OK, super-serious question time. So along with Blake Bortles and A.J. McCarron, you’re just the latest draft prospect whose girlfriend is getting as much press as you are, eh?
Murray: [laughs] I am not even sure what to say to that. Oh man … It depends where you are, I guess. If you’re up in Philly [where she’s from] she’s the one who gets the picture requests. Of course, when she’s down here in Georgia, or anywhere in the south, she still gets her attention, but it’s a little different here. She’s pretty big time up there in Philly, though. She does a good job with Fox.
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