About 20 minutes after being told by doctors in the Georgia locker room that a torn ACL had ended his college career, Aaron Murray was already mapping out his future.
‚ÄúAll right, what‚Äôs the next step?,‚Äù Murray said with an eye on getting healthy in the leadup to the NFL draft. ‚ÄúLet‚Äôs start now. Let‚Äôs go.‚Äù
The quarterback is three weeks into his road to recovery since the left knee injury on Senior Night against Kentucky.
The Southeastern Conference‚Äôs career passing yardage and touchdown passing leader spoke with reporters locally for the first time since his injury on Friday, walking into the interview room without crutches.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been really getting after it in rehab pretty much all day long,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúAlready in the weight room. My goal is to try to be back by Pro Day.‚Äù
Georgia hasn‚Äôt set the date for prospects to work out for NFL scouts and decision-makers, but Murray expects it to be held in mid-April. The draft is May 8-10.
‚ÄúLuckily the draft got pushed back this year, so that‚Äôs good timing for me,‚Äù he said.
Murray has been told by Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson that he‚Äôll be able to ‚Äúdo drops, rollouts, run a 40 if I want to,‚Äù Murray said.
Said coach Mark Richt Thursday in Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl news conference: ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs flying right now in rehab and his attitude is tremendous.‚Äù
Murray, projected as an early to mid-round prospect before the injury, will meet with NFL teams at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next month and at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February and be able to show them his football IQ, but probably not his football skills.
Murray suspected the ACL was torn when it happened on a zone-read run on the first play of the second quarter in the rout of the Wildcats.
‚ÄúI felt and heard the pop,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúI could walk and do certain movements on it so I‚Äôm like, ‚ÄòYou know what? I‚Äôm just going to stick it out as long as I can.’ … You know me. You‚Äôre going to have to drag me off the field before I come out of there.‚Äù
He stayed in the game for 13 more plays before being helped off the field after being spun to the ground following an interception on his last college play. He had surgery three days later.
Watching the Georgia Tech game days later on TV in Athens was ‚Äústressful,‚Äù he said. Murray still did what Murray does on Sundays after a game. He watched game film and discussed what he saw with Hutson Mason, the junior who replaced Murray as the starter.
‚ÄúI‚Äôll be curious to find out how much film he wants to study knowing that he‚Äôs not going to play in the (bowl), but I got a feeling he‚Äôs going to want to look at a bunch of that,‚Äù Richt said.
Murray said he wasn‚Äôt sure how much offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will listen to his suggestions since he‚Äôs no longer playing for the Bulldogs, but that won‚Äôt stop him from watching some film.
‚ÄúI have nothing to do,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no more school. I‚Äôll wake up, rehab, work out, probably watch some film, watch practice and then rehab again later in the afternoon.‚Äù
Murray will be signing autographs Saturday at 1 p.m. at Georgia Square Mall. He figures he‚Äôs signed at least 10,000 autographs for free during his five seasons at Georgia.
Fans can get his signature and meet him for $35, which means he‚Äôs giving up his remaining college eligibility.
A portion of the proceeds from the signing with go to Extra Special People. Murray has volunteered his time with the organization that works with those with developmental disabilities and their families.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm moving on,‚Äù said Murray, who has met with prospective agents and talked to others on the phone. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the next stage in my life and this is just the beginning process of it.‚Äù
Murray considers himself now ‚Äúan alum pretty much I guess.‚Äù He‚Äôll pay his own way to the bowl game. While he plans to be at some bowl practices in Athens, which start Saturday, he won‚Äôt be there for the practices in Jacksonville. He‚Äôll be there the day before the game and on the sideline on game day.
Murray said he‚Äôs felt the love from fans since his injury.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been unbelievable support from fans, friends, people who have gone through the injury,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúA lot, a lot of people.‚Äù
Murray even got a surprise call a couple of days after his surgery from SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
‚ÄúI talked to him for a while,‚Äù said Murray, the SEC‚Äôs football scholar-athlete of the year. ‚ÄúHe was awesome. Just thanking me for how I represented the SEC these past four years and I was just saying to him how it‚Äôs been an honor to be a part of the best conference in the country pretty much. That‚Äôs definitely pretty cool to get a call from him. I‚Äôm not going to lie.‚Äù
Instead of training for the draft in Florida or Arizona, Murray is sticking around Athens to rehab with Courson and work out with Georgia‚Äôs strength and conditioning staff like former Georgia receiver Marlon Brown did after last season.
Brown and Murray have talked about his experience coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee on Nov. 3, 2012, of his senior season. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent and is tied for most touchdown catches by a rookie with six.
Murray hopes to be ‚Äúpretty much full go‚Äù by Pro Day and near 100 percent by an NFL training camp.
He points out Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had ACL surgery on Jan. 9 and started in the opener about eight months later.
Murray said he has no regrets about not entering the NFL draft after his junior season.
There is a tinge of regret about how his Senior Night ended, without waving to the fans and soaking it all in one final time.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs almost like I didn‚Äôt say goodbye,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúI guess it‚Äôs a good thing. It‚Äôs almost like, to be continued. I‚Äôm not leaving here. I‚Äôm always a Bulldog, I‚Äôll always be a Bulldog.‚Äù