Georgia Football

The Day Aaron Murray Picked UGA

April 24, 2018
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ATHENS - Ten years ago today Aaron Murray, probably the most decorated quarterback to play at UGA this century, committed to Georgia over the Gators. 

It was the spring of 2008. Georgia was coming off an 11-2 seasons that culminated in Mark Richt’s second Sugar Bowl win in six seasons. Murray was considered the No. 19 overall prospect in the country, and the No. 4 overall signal caller in the class of 2009. 

His commitment was a very big deal. 

But driving down to Tampa the night before I really didn’t know what Murray was going to do. My suspicion was that he was going to picks the Bulldogs, but he hadn’t talked with Georgia or Florida’s staff in the week leading up to the announcement. Information on Murray was quite difficult to come by. 

I just remember thinking to myself, and my wife saying it to me outloud: “If this kid doesn’t pick UGA…”

But he did. 

“I went with my gut feeling,” Murray told me after the fact during an interview. “These last three weeks I just felt like I want to be a Bulldog. It is a dream come true. I want to play in that stadium. I want to play for those coaches. I want to put that uniform on.”

“Everyone in Tampa has been asking me ‘Where are you going? Is it Florida? Is it Georgia?’ I just wanted to relax,” he said. “I didn’t talk with any of the coaches at Georgia or anybody. I wanted to take this week to think and make sure this was the right decision for myself. I wanted it to be about me and enjoy it.”

Dawg Post
TAMPA - Plant (FL) QB Aaron Murray during a photo shoot with Dawg Post at Plant High School on April 24, 2008. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

I stuck around Plant High School the rest of the day. Murray did a photoshoot by himself and with a teammate - Orson Charles - for me. The two of them joined the rest of their Panther teammates for a 7-on-7 competition at a nearby school later that afternoon. 

More than anything I wondered what the reaction would be like at Plant - in the heart of Tampa - with their star quarterback picking the Dawgs over local favorite Georgia. That was answered pretty quickly as the stereo in the locker room played the Ludacris and the Field Mob’s “Georgia” over and over and over again. 

I’m not sure if anyone has written a song about Florida yet - unless you 

“We on the grind all of the time with nothing on our ming but Georgia… We ain’t playing in Georgia….”

It was loud. The speakers were significant. I’m not sure if Key Largo by Bertie Higgins would have wounded the same coming out of those speakers had Murray picked the Gators, but there aren’t a lot of songs celebrating the Sunshine State.

It is what it is Floridians - save the hate mail. 

Nonetheless, that day I got to meet Aaron Murray before he had one inkling of what his future would be: a battle with fellow 2009 signee Zach Mettenberger for the starting job in 2010; the struggle of being the only starting quarterback since 1996 to guide UGA to a losing season; the loss to UCF… and the strange decision to wear a glove in that game; the struggle to get Georgia back to national relevancy by winning the SEC East in 2011; humiliation in Columbia only to claw back and win the East again in 2012; that final, fateful pass that was completed when only an incomplete pass or a touchdown would do; the 2013 season, which was such a struggle, had amazing contests against Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee, the Gators and a thrilling comeback against Auburn only to end with the second-most painful loss in the Richt ear - all ended with Murray tearing up his knee.

Murray will probably be remembered most for the final play against Alabama in 2012 - coming up four yard shy of a national title. But that glosses over the wins he posted against the Gators. 

Murray came on the scene during a time of transition. Florida was coming off its high-water mark of the century - winning the SEC East three times in four years with national titles twice in three years. Murray lost to the Gators in 2010 in an overtime thriller, but gutted out three wins in a row from 2011-2013. 

Dawg Post
JACKSONVILLE - Aaron Murray looks towards the St. John's River before entering the field against the Gators for the last time. Murray is the first quarterback in almost 30 years to beat Florida three years in a row. The win came during Georgia's 23-20 win over Florida on November 2, 2013 at Everbank Stadium. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

No UGA quarterback has won three in a row against Florida in decades. 

Those wins were a testament to what Murray did for a program that was starving for light at the end of the tunnel in that series. Since Murray started at QB for the Dawgs UGA is 4-4 against the Gators. That’s a long way away from the domination the Gators enjoyed in the series in the 1990s and 2000s.   

The day he picked Georgia over the Gators he told me that he had been having trouble sleeping in the days leading up to his decision. 

“The other night I laid in my bed for about two hours. I was just thinking about the future. Then I went downstairs and watched Georgia film for about two hours - didn’t go to be until 2 AM. Man, that feeling - I am going to be playing for the University of Georgia. That’s a big deal for me,” he said. 

I wonder if I could have told him what the future would be for him in Athens if he would have slept a little better.

Dawg Post
JACKSONVILLE - Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley during No. 12 Georgia's 17-9 win over No. 3 Florida at EverBank Field on October 27, 2012. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

 

 
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