Aaron Murray knows that well.
Five years into his college life, Murray’s only logical reason for coming back to college football is to win it all (like that’s such an easy thing to do). He finds himself at the helm of the most powerful Georgia offense since… well, ever. But he’s still got a complicated path to the BCS National Championship Game.
Everyone can’t win the national championship every season, but Georgia can in 2013. And much of the confidence floating around in Athens this year is because Murray came back for his final year of eligibility – maybe everyone just likes the way Murray hands the ball off to star running back Todd Gurley (you still get credit for doing that – right Buck Belue?).
For so long Murray has incorrectly been seen as “the guy who couldn’t win the big game” (which is a ridiculous notion for a guy who has won so many games – including two HUGE games against Florida). Now the guy who couldn’t win anything is the reason Georgia will do just that.
Logic is not necessary in the world of college football – particularly over time.
So what happened? How did we get to this point with Murray?
The simple answer is that Murray came back for his final season. The long story starts somewhere between his glove-wearing appearance in the Liberty Bowl and last season’s loss in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
Hollywood would have us believe that sports heroes only go from the bottom to the top, and that the path is always linear. That’s almost never the case, and it’s not the case for Murray.
He took steps forward – finishing the 2010 season 5-3 – after a 1-4 start (that’s a step back). Georgia’s 0-2 start, highlighted by Murray’s huge mistakes in the loss to South Carolina, were snuffed out by a ten-game win streak including wins over Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech in 2011. That was followed by game-changing errors in losses to LSU and Michigan State.
Two steps forward – one back.
In 2012, Murray and company got off to a hot start before losing limbs in Columbia. Murray had to pick Georgia off the ground in Lexington before throwing three picks in one half against the Gators. But, once more, Murray corrected and found Malcolm Mitchell who ran into history that Saturday night in Jacksonville.
Three interceptions into the 2012 Florida game Georgia fans had given up on Murray. I wonder how many cocktails were thrown into TV sets around 4:45 that day. But Murray rallied back – he fought hard to get Georgia back into position to win, and it did.
But Georgia fans, true to their nature, only focused on the negative – thrilled about the win over the Gators, but whining about Murray’s picks. Weeks later with Murray one snap away from a stunning win the quarterback completed a pass, but to the wrong player… you know the rest of the story.
Aaron Murray’s path was never a straight line – those don’t exist in sports. No one can predict what the future will be for Murray, but my guess is that it will be two steps forward and one step back again.
But after a while, two steps forward and one step back makes the offense wind up in the end zone… where you wanted to be all along.