The 2013 season didn’t unfold the way Georgia Bulldog’s quarterback Aaron Murray envisioned when he decided to return to school for his senior season. After suffering a torn ACL Saturday night in Georgia’s win over the Kentucky Wildcats, it certainly didn’t end the way he envisioned either.
Instead of returning to the SEC title game for the third straight season and once again being in the midst of the national championship hunt, the Bulldogs suffered a slew of key injuries and went through growing pains with a young defense which has prevented them from accomplishing their goals. But despite the team falling short this year and Murray suffering a devastating injury, he should be proud of what he’s done on the field this year.
Obviously, the records he’s broken this year stand out. Among many others, Murray holds the SEC records for most career touchdown passes and most career passing yards. Murray has become one of the most decorated players in SEC history, and holds both school and conference records that will be difficult for any player to break, meaning he will be fondly remembered for a long time to come.
But outside of putting his name all over the record books, Murray has a lot to be proud of. This season, Georgia has been forced to endure injury after injury to key players, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But, Murray didn’t let it affect his performance as he has held the team together as best as he could.
Murray played without key receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley for most of the season, and even played without star running back Todd Gurley for a few games. Through it all, Murray was unfazed and continued to play at a high level.
He also worked hard to dispute his reputation of being unable to win a big game. He led the Bulldogs to wins over South Carolina and LSU, who were both ranked sixth nationally at the time, despite little help from the Georgia defense. Murray also helped the Bulldogs beat Florida for the third straight year, giving him a 3-1 record against the Gators in his career.
In perhaps his finest hour of the season, Murray led a gutsy comeback against seventh-ranked Auburn, erasing a 20-point deficit in the fourth-quarter and scoring the go-ahead touchdown himself, only to have an incredible comeback foiled by a miracle catch.
We can debate after the fact whether or not Murray made a mistake by returning to school, especially after his injury. He could have left school after last season and stood out in a weak class of quarterbacks in last year’s NFL Draft. Instead, Murray will have his stock drop because injury and may get lost in the shuffle of a strong class of quarterbacks.
We can also debate whether Murray’s bitterness at the loss to Alabama in last year’s SEC title game, specifically how the game ended, had too much influence in his decision to return. But that competitive spirit and desire to atone for the close loss was why Murray was able to keep the Bulldogs together this year amidst adversity, and allowed him accomplish what he has this year.
Regardless of how much Georgia has struggled this year and despite the injury he suffered, Murray should be proud of his season and proud of the fact that he came back. Not only has he ensured that he will be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the SEC, he has also shown tremendous character and leadership which can be appreciated by football fans everywhere.
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