Loran Smith: Murray draws praise from mighty Mannings

Earlier this month, Archie Manning, the progenitor of NFL Super Bowl quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, called with a glowing report on the performance and conduct of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray at the Manning football camp this summer.

“What a fine young man,” Archie began. “Peyton, Eli and I really enjoyed getting to know him. Georgia should be proud of Aaron. In our camp, the sessions are naturally about quarterbacking and drills to help young quarterbacks improve, but we were quite taken by Aaron’s personality and ability to interact with others in the camp.”

The conversation would have warmed all Bulldog hearts, as this NFL icon volunteered a scouting report that was akin to recommending Aaron for a scholarship to a college recruiter. “You could tell right off,” Archie said, “that Aaron is a special kid. He was coming to our camp last year (2011), but an exam was scheduled the Friday he would need to be here. That tells you something — a kid giving his academic obligation priority.”

When Archie, who is President of the National Football Foundation and a frequent guest commentator on CBS’s college football shows, was in Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game last December, he sent Aaron a text, wishing him well. “He replied immediately,” Archie said, “telling me that he would definitely be with us this summer.”

The Manning trio was impressed with Murray’s quarterback skills. “He really threw the ball well,” Archie continued. “You can tell he has been well coached. He also has excellent communication skills, which are very important for a quarterback.”

The Manning camp drew quarterbacks from 45 sates, the Netherlands, and France. There were 40 college quarterbacks who worked the camp as counselors and coaches. “Naturally, it was a lot of fun,” Murray said this week after a practice, “but we also learned a lot. It is nice to interact with Peyton and Eli, two guys who have Super Bowl rings. Peyton and Eli really get involved. They don’t just show up for dinner and take off. They share with you what they know. We got to pick their brains and ask questions about anything that was on our minds.”

It resonated with Murray that the Manning brothers are quarterbacks who have the notion that playing the position is not about arm strength. Footwork, drops, and downfield awareness are just as important as flinging the ball deep. “They are so accurate,” Murray said. “That is the first thing you notice. Then you see them doing the little things that are vital — they are very disciplined quarterbacks. Their timing is so impressive. You can tell how much they love the game. They are always trying to work to improve.”

Murray picked up a few drills from the Mannings, workouts he is utilizing this fall. Doesn’t matter the person or the profession, those who underscore self-improvement are those who often enjoy the most success. It would be difficult to find a quarterback who gives improvement greater emphasis than Murray.

Last fall after the bitter disappointment when Georgia lost to South Carolina 45-42, Murray met with his family after the game, but not for long. “Sorry,” he said, “but I have work to do.” With that, he bade them goodbye and went off to study video tape of the frustrating loss. Keep in mind that the familial relationship with the Murrays runs deep. They spend time together at every opportunity.

“He has such a distaste for losing,” says his brother Josh, who was a teammate the last two years, “that he couldn’t wait to review the video tape of that game.”

This past weekend, Murray gave video tape study the highest priority. There were practice and media requirements. He also had a rehab assignment and sent for a takeout lunch from his favorite restaurant, Hubee D’s. After picture day and the endless signing of autographs, he went back for more video tape study. “His maturity is something to turn your head,” said Mike Bobo, offensive coordinator. “If you want to improve, you have to work hard. Nobody has worked harder than Aaron.”

At the Manning camp, Aaron watched Peyton’s rapid-fire, chopping steps as he dropped back to set up to throw. A key element in Aaron’s training in the spring was working with Bobo on his footwork. Aaron watched Eli’s drop back and timing routine, keeping his eyes downfield. That is something else he and Bobo have worked on. “Aaron works hard at all phases of quarterbacking,” Bobo says, “and I think it will pay off for us this season.”

The players have taken note of Murray’s due diligence, and line coach Will Friend tossed a tribute to Murray last week. One of the things Friend has given emphasis is making sure the offensive line is familiar with all protection requirements, assignments, and language. “One thing we can be sure of,” Friend said, “is that Aaron will get them in the right protection.”

What we are seeing is a veteran quarterback who believes in himself and the Georgia system and is working hard to be the best quarterback he can be. He has skills, and he has experience which enhance quarterback performance.

Coaches always aspire for their quarterbacks to become coaches on the field. Georgia has one in Aaron Murray.

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