HOOVER, ALA. | The Southeastern Conference‚Äôs Media Days lacked the usual star power from its players until about 8 a.m. Central Time on Thursday, when Georgia‚Äôs Todd Gurley walked into the Hyatt Regency Birmingham.
The explosive running back can be a reluctant interview even with a dozen or so reporters in the comfortable confines of the Butts-Mehre building back in Athens. His answers can be curt.
At Media Days, he got thrown into the throng of more than 1,200 journalists for the four-day football kickoff event.
Guess what? Gurley showed he can turn it on when he wants to.
‚ÄúI think it is important,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúI talked to him about it (Wednesday) a little bit; just talking to him about embracing it and understanding that if he‚Äôs going to continue on with his football career, which we all think he will, it will be a great experience for him and a chance for him to grow as a pro and also to bless the university, hopefully, with his presence here.‚Äù
After almost 20 minutes of answering questions in the main media room, someone working for the SEC told reporters that Gurley‚Äôs time was done. Gurley was in the middle of a question, but finished his answer.
Richt told Gurley in January about what was coming on this day.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a once in a lifetime chance,‚Äù Gurley said after arriving on a flight on a university-owned plane from Athens. ‚ÄúI took him (up) on that offer.‚Äù
Gurley wore a bow tie like teammates Chris Conley and Ramik Wilson for the occasion.
‚ÄúI went and bought one,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúHow do y‚Äôall like it, though? Pretty cool.‚Äù
Georgia likes Gurley when he‚Äôs in uniform and not dealing with a sprained ankle or injured hip like last season when he missed three games and parts of some others.
‚ÄúWhen he‚Äôs healthy, he‚Äôs a force,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a man to be reckoned with. There ain‚Äôt no doubt about that. … In any given game, he can be the difference.‚Äù
Gurley will be in the spotlight this season.
After rushing for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns in two seasons, the Tarboro, N.C., product is the face of the program now that SEC career passing-yardage leader Aaron Murray is in the NFL.
Gurley isn‚Äôt trying to rush the start of the season.
He got away for about a week to California.
‚ÄúThe summertime, I call it my time,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs my time to get better at a lot of stuff as far as eating, training, trying to sleep. I‚Äôve definitely been training a lot harder just preparing and being smarter about a lot of things.‚Äù
That training is coming with a 3:50 p.m. workout time when he said, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hot as I don‚Äôt know what.‚Äù
The 6-foot-1 Gurley said he‚Äôs dropped about 5 pounds and is now at 225. Richt has noticed the work paying off.
‚ÄúI see that he‚Äôs getting in great condition for this season,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI think the sky‚Äôs the limit for him.‚Äù
The NFL hasn‚Äôt had a first-round draft pick at running back the past two seasons.
Gurley could change that.
But being one of the top 32 isn‚Äôt good enough for him.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to make somebody want you,‚Äù Gurley said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all about your performance on the field. That‚Äôs what I‚Äôm trying to do. I‚Äôm trying to make somebody take me with the first pick, the second pick or whatever. That‚Äôs why I‚Äôm going to go out there and give it my all and play hard.‚Äù
More than three and a half hours in, Gurley‚Äôs day was almost done.
He was headed toward radio row and heading down an escalator where a throng of Alabama fans waited to catch a glimpse of coach Nick Saban, who was en route upstairs.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been good,‚Äù Gurley said.
Georgia fans don‚Äôt have to worry about him coming out of the day too worn down.
His voice was still strong at the end. He said he only needed to down about four bottles of water.
‚ÄúSame questions over and over,‚Äù he said, ‚Äúbut it‚Äôs fun.‚Äù