Aaron Murray went from the big name on the University of Georgia campus in Athens to a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Heading into his second NFL season, Murray’s focus is all about progressing as a quarterback under coach Andy Reid while playing in the shadow of starter Alex Smith.
Murray said he hopes to improve on “everything,” specifically noting the intricacies of the game, such as his knowledge of the playbook, fundamentals, progressing through his reads and honing his ability to fit the ball through tight windows. He is participating this week in the Enduring Hearts Georgia Celebrity Golf Classic at Reynolds Plantation.
“You go from college where you might have a 2-yard window to throw the ball in, and in the NFL it’s about a foot,” said Murray, a four-year starter at Georgia before being drafted by the Chiefs. “The guys are a lot faster. You’ve gotta be accurate, and you’ve gotta be on time.”
Showcasing precision accuracy though those small spaces will be the key for Murray to replicate his record-setting dominance at the college level. He holds three Southeastern Conference records — career passing yards (13,166), touchdowns (121) and total offense (13,562) — and became the first SEC quarterback to throw four straight 3,000-yard seasons.
But that portion of his career came to an abrupt end Nov. 23, 2013. Playing in his final game at Sanford Stadium, Murray went down in the second quarter against Kentucky because of a torn ACL. It marked the final time Murray took the field in a Georgia uniform.
But it wasn’t the final time Murray wore red. He was drafted by the Chiefs in the fifth round, 163rd overall, of the 2014 NFL Draft.
“This is awesome,” Murray said of his first thoughts after being drafted. “It’s a dream come true. When you’re a little kid in the backyard, you start acting like you’re on an NFL team throwing touchdown passes. To suit up and put on an NFL uniform is pretty special.”
With Smith at the helm in Kansas City, Murray was afforded time to fully recover from the injury he suffered only six months before being drafted. Viewed as a possible redshirt year by some, Murray didn’t exactly hold the same mind-set.
“No,” Murray said. “I felt great.”
Although he felt strong enough to play, Murray never did in his rookie season, as he was stuck behind Smith and former Missouri star Chase Daniel.
With a year and eight months between him and his knee injury now, Murray doesn’t foresee any setbacks. He said he’s 100 percent healthy.
“I think I’ve hit the point where, strengthwise, it’s the same as my right leg,” Murray said of his injured left knee.
With injury concerns behind him, Murray wants to improve steadily and prove to his coaches that he can make an impact in the NFL. It might be a few years down the road, however, as Murray doesn’t believe he’ll earn a chance at the starting job this year with Smith as the penciled-in starter.
“Probably not, because (Smith) has solidified himself as a starter — great quarterback and great dude,” Murray said. “I just want to learn from him and our coaching staff, continue to get better, and show our coaches maybe one day I can get out there and play.”