Durham Steps Up

ATHENS – No one can accuse Kris Durham of being a frontrunner.

On Tuesday he was sporting a Detroit Lions T-shirt – the NFL team with the most losses over the past decade – and a Kansas City Royals hat – a team with one winning season in the past 15 years.

Durham's excuse: His former roommate Matt Stafford is the Lions' quarterback, and his brother-in-law pitches for the Royals.

"It's almost like I have family on both teams," Durham said.

Durham was not asked if he knows anybody on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Georgia is struggling right now too, but it hasn't been Durham's fault. The senior has been one of the few bright spots for the offense, currently ranking third in the SEC with 260 receiving yards.

And this from a player who may have just been happy to be on the field this season.

A shoulder injury forced him to miss all of last season. He also missed three games in 2008 because of a broken hand. This season he has been playing with patellar tendinits, an Achilles injury, but it hasn't limited him from playing.

"I remember when I came on my recruiting visit (in 2008), for the Alabama game, Kris had a great game," Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. "I was like, ‘Man he's pretty good.' And everyone was talking about how great he is, and just if he can stay healthy."

Already, Durham's stats (13 catches for 260 receiving yards and a touchdown) have equaled or tied any of his previous season highs.

Much of his resurgence can be traced to the absence of A.J. Green, the All-American candidate who was suspended the first four games of the season.

But Durham has played well enough that he'll probably remain a factor when Green returns.

"He runs probably some of the routes on the team," Murray said. "He's run these routes for five years now, so he knows the ins and outs on how to get leverage on DBs. Even if I don't make the perfect throw, he makes some pretty good catches for me."

Head coach Mark Richt said Durham's numbers would actually be better if Murray had hit him in stride a few times. Durham had a 46-yard catch against Arkansas, and 55 against South Carolina, while his lone touchdown came against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"I can't tell you how many times already if we hit him on the run, he's in the end zone," Richt said. "He's actually broken out, been behind guys three, four, five yards sometimes, and the ball wasn't quite where he could catch it on the good run."

Durham shrugs off the individual performance, saying it comes back to the team's record.

"I've had good stats. I've had career stats," Durham said. "But at the end of the day I'd much rather have no catches and win the game. That's just how I am. It's frustrating, it's disappointing. But at the same time there's a lot of good things happening and that's what you have to focus on."

Durham grew up in Calhoun, near the Georgia-Tennessee border. He came to Georgia the same year as Stafford, who went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft.

And along the way Durham's sister married Blake Wood, now a Royals pitcher – but not after first playing at Georgia Tech.

Durham smiled when he stated that nugget about his brother-in-law.

"I'm willing to overlook it," Durham said.

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