ATHENS – Georgia’s Aaron Murray lights up like a school kid when asked that age-old question, “what did you do this summer?”
Murray did a lot, and most of it involved a football.
The Bulldogs’ highly-decorated junior quarterback spent a lot of time working out and throwing balls to his Georgia teammates in Athens. But the highlight of his summer vacation was a two-week stretch in July spent with the Eli and Peyton Manning and the some of the best quarterbacks in college football.
Murray served as a counselor at both the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., and the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Redondo Beach, Calif., in mid-July. For a football junkie like Murray, he was a kid in a candy store.
“It was great,” said Murray, who skipped SEC Football Media Days in order to attend the camps. “I got to do a little bit of everything at both camps. For the Manning camp I was more of a counselor working with kids. They had 1,200 kids there, middle school to high school, so I got to work with them.”
But he also got to work with the Manning brothers, as well as nine of the best quarterbacks in college football.
On two occasions, the famous Super-Bowl-winning brothers put the collegians through the paces and provided some invaluable one-on-one instruction.
“They showed us some drills and worked with us on our form if they saw something glaring,” Murray said. “So I got to work with two of the best in the game, which was awesome.”
Murray was joined in the southern Louisiana by Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Bryan Bennett (Oregon), Mike Glennon (N.C. State), Zach Mettenberger (LSU), Keith Price (Washington), Geno Smith (West Virginia), Jeff Tuel (Washington State) and Tyler Wilson (Arkansas).
“It was a sight to see, all the talent we had with the quarterbacks out there,” Murray said. “Sitting back watching those guys throw was pretty cool, it was like a mini-combine. Every top quarterback that’ll be drafted the next two years was there, so it was definitely a pretty cool scene.”
Murray held his own. According to analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who covered the camp for NFL.com, Murray was one of the best.
“This junior is a good inch shorter than senior counterparts Barkley and Wilson, but he matched them throw for throw,” Jeremiah wrote. “He has very clean footwork in his drops, as well as a compact delivery. Murray can generate a lot of velocity and his accuracy was excellent at all three levels. I was surprised at how powerfully he threw the deep ball. Murray had as much range as any quarterback at the camp.”
In California, Murray got to be a teacher where he has been taught much. Murray first attended the Elite 11 camp as a ball boy in 2007, then won MVP honors there in 2008 as an invitee the summer before his senior year at Tampa’s Plant High.
While Murray was there this time under the pretense of coaching, he found himself receiving as much as he was giving.
“We did every drill, every 7-on-7 rep,” he said of his fellow college instructors, who were under the supervision of camp “head coach” Trent Dilfer. “We were dead after five days of waking up at 8 a.m., practicing, taking a break, practicing, then at night doing 7-on-7. It was really like camp for us.”
With Murray’s “vacations” behind him, it’s time to concentrate on real football. He had a great sophomore season for the Bulldogs, accumulating 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns. But six of his 14 interceptions came in Georgia’s four losses, so he’s looking to bring down those numbers down while bringing up his accuracy (60 percent for career).
“I worked on a little fundamental work, learned some new drills and tweaked some things here and there,” Murray said. “I feel great. It was a lot of hard work and I think I gained a lot from it.”