You know, the young man with the good looks, charm with the media and fans and of course, the most exciting player on the field. You know, that one guy onlookers twist their necks in anticipation for every Saturday during the Dawg Walk.
Like Roger Staubach or Steve Young or Tom Brady or whoever your childhood hero was growing up.
Picture the gunslinger you imagined you were as you were throwing the ball up to yourself and running under to catch the touchdown.
That’s the elevated status Aaron Murray is slowly molding himself into.
Think about Murray’s 2010 season – his first as the starter. He threw for 3,049 yards and 24 touchdowns. He threw only eight interceptions. And aside from the Liberty Bowl stumble, he really didn’t have a bad game.
What I’m left saying after such a tremendous season: Wait, this kid has three more years to do this? Three more seasons to get better. Three more seasons to…potentially become, statistically or by any other standard, the best quarterback in Georgia history.
Now, I realize you probably just scoffed at this thought. More talented than Stafford? No. More legendary than Tarkenton? Probably not. More revered than Shockley, Greene or Zeier? It’s certainly possible.
I’m not sure if Murray will surpass any of the past greats to have taken a snap from center in the storied history of quarterbacks at Georgia. But I think he’s got a damn good shot at impacting the hierarchy.
And I think in the back of his mind, Murray thinks so too.
This is now his offense and his team, which essentially means Athens is now his town. And again, I’ll remind you that Murray still has three full seasons (barring an injury) to sling touchdowns and scramble for first downs.
Now, his on-the-record thoughts are progressing from the “I’m learning” variety to the “I’m leading” category. Which should evoke wondrous thoughts from Bulldog Nation.
“I’m able to not worry so much about myself, but to help out with other guys,” Murray said. “Maybe somebody doesn’t know a route. Maybe somebody doesn’t know a protection. I’m able now not to worry so much about me. I know enough that I’m able to help the guys around. That definitely helps the leadership role, like I said, not worrying about myself but making sure everybody is ready to go on that play.”
Like I said, this is now his team, from the outside in and back out again.
Last season, Murray caught a little flak for his nerves getting the best of him before the G-Day game, which caused some overthrows. He also came out overhyped for the Florida game, “juiced,” as coach Mark Richt put it. The entire nervous sideshow was a side effect stemming from his first go-around in each event, as every game and every other play seemed to be Murray’s first time doing something or another.
That will no longer be an excuse or a problem. And offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is still beating the “every rep must be the same” drum that quarterback gurus so thoroughly drown their pupil’s minds with.
“He’s got to be more consistent,” Bobo said. “He’d be hot for a quarter, cold for a quarter. A lot of that is the start of the game and the end of the game. So we just want to focus more on fundamentals and being a more consistent thrower.”
The only real discernable knock on Murray’s redshirt freshman campaign was his tendency to hold on to the ball for too long. At times, it looked like Murray didn’t want to make a mistake… which led to him making a mistake. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
“That comes with knowing what to do and trusting,” Bobo said. “He’s only improved at that.”
Now Murray is no longer the new kid in town. Freshman Christian LeMay is receiving the bulk of Bobo’s blurbs at practice. While the ire of Bobo’s teaching is spent elsewhere (which proves increased trust of Aaron), Murray says his goal is to become an extension of Richt and Bobo on the field by equaling their knowledge of the offense.
“Yeah that’s my goal,” he says with a confident nod. “I want to know the playbook as well as those guys. They know it in and out. That’s my goal. If anybody asks me any question at any point of practice or a game, I want to be able to shoot them an answer and make sure they’re ready to go.”
What Murray hasn’t realized, is that he’s already the third arm of Bobo. The coaches probably aren’t letting Murray in on the secret because they want him to continue to strive, never settle and fully develop.
But make no mistake, Bobo, Richt and any other player on Georgia’s team will tell you Murray is now the third offensive mind in Athens.
“He’s done a nice job…of running the offense the way it’s supposed to be run,” Bobo said. “That’s what you want ultimately is the quarterback is an extension of the coach. He does a great job taking it from the meeting room to the field, and then his preparation also helps him get ready.”
So here Murray is, with three years to play and nothing but static benchmarks in the Georgia media guide to aspire to destroy in ballistic fashion. He’s already proven to be an upstanding face of the offense. He’s a good quote. And he hasn’t had any photos placing him in precarious positions posted on the Internet.
More importantly, he’s good at football. Has command in the huddle. And when his teammates are in an offensive darkness, Murray is now the guy who can flip the light switch, or even screw the light bulb in if that’s what it takes.
He has the chance to be the next All-American guy in Athens. He has the chance to be the next hero kids emulate with backyard touchdown strikes.
Hey, when it comes to sports clichés, all you need is a chance.