ORLANDO – Before this season began, Aaron Murray set a plan for the next two years — not for football, but for a doctorate program in industrial-organizational psychology. Call it an academic and career game plan.
“It’s a pretty big field nowadays,” Murray said in August. “A lot of companies are hiring I-O psychologists.”
Aaron Murray plays a football game Tuesday. There is a very good chance it will be his final football game for Georgia.
This is pure conjecture on my part. It is based on the fact that Murray, as much as he loves college football, has other things going on in his life. He has other things he wants to try. He’s a different kid.
“You mean mature?” Murray said, smiling.
“No,” I responded. (He laughed. Know your audience.)
I presented my theory to Murray, that Georgia’s game against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl would be the end of this chapter in his life. I asked him if my read on him, his mindset and aspirations was correct. He responded without actually answering.
“I definitely have other things [I want to do],” he said. “My whole life, my mom has talked to us about setting goals and thinking about what we want to do in our life. So I’m a very goal-driven person. But I can’t predict the future. I can only live day by day.”
So are you going into this game with the thought that it could be your final game at Georgia?
“No. It’s just another game. I prepare hard for all of them.”
Never try to out-think a psychology major.
Murray is the first quarterback in SEC history to have three straight 3,000-yard passing seasons. In the last two years, he has thrown 66 touchdowns against 22 interceptions, won two SEC East titles and went 21-6. Four weeks ago against Alabama, he and the Bulldogs came within one tipped pass of going to the BCS championship game instead of the Capital One Bowl.
His biggest problems have come in the postseason, with two SEC title losses (to LSU and Alabama) and two bowl game losses (to Central Florida as a freshman and Michigan State last season). If Murray decides to come back, it will be because conference and national championships have eluded him.
I’m just not sure that’s going to do it.
Could he improve his NFL draft stock by coming back? Probably. He battled some consistency problems this season, as evidenced by his completion percentages against South Carolina (35.5), Florida (50) and Alabama (54.5), and his five interceptions in those three games. But this also is considered a weak draft class for quarterbacks. Sometimes an extra season leads NFL scouts to find more flaws. There’s also the potential for injury.
But the potential for improving his draft stock — and right now he’s projected as high as a late first-rounder but more likely second or third round – may not be a big deal for Murray He already has his career blueprint: college football, NFL, I/O psychology.
Save the absence of a conference title and playing for a national championship, Murray has experienced as much as any college football quarterback can expect. He stepped in with Georgia at the bottom, going 6-7, losing to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl in 2010, and then starting 0-2 in 2011. He was there for the program’s turnaround (21-4 since).
With Georgia losing so many players on defense, it’s debatable how strong the Dogs’ chance will be next season.
Murray recently said the loss to Alabama was causing him sleepless nights. On Saturday, he provided this update: “It’s out of my mind now. But I’ll always have memories of it. That game will be replayed on TV for many years.”
He joked that when he’s in retirement, “Maybe by then I’ll figure out a way to tell everybody we actually won the game.”
The next game hasn’t had the same buildup. It won’t have the same ramifications. But a win likely would leave the Dogs as a top-five ranked team and finally allow Murray to end the season with a victory.
“I have yet to win a bowl game, so this is my opportunity to hopefully finally win one and send the seniors off,” he said.
And possibly himself.
By Jeff Schultz
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