ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray is the Southeastern Conference's career leader in passing offense and total offense, and he is just two touchdown passes away from setting the new league standard in that category as well.
Yet Murray's most impressive stat may be his streak of consecutive starts, which leads the nation and will reach 50 this Saturday when the Bulldogs host Appalachian State.
"Knock on wood, but he's a stud," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Saturday after Murray led the Bulldogs to a third straight win over Florida. "I'm just really proud of him and how he stands in there every Saturday and lets it rip. He doesn't get enough credit for our success these last few years, but I'm just extremely proud of the way he's played."
Murray has never missed a start in his Georgia career and has missed only a handful of snaps. He left a 2010 loss at Auburn late in the game with a bruised chest and a bruised knee, and he missed one snap in last year's win at Auburn following a hard hit.
This season, Murray is the only quarterback in the SEC East to have started every game. Florida's Jeff Driskel suffered the worst fate when he broke his leg in the third game against Tennessee, and enduring setbacks since have been Missouri's James Franklin (shoulder), South Carolina's Connor Shaw (shoulder and knee), Kentucky's Jalen Whitlow (ankle), Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels (leg/knee) and Tennessee's Justin Worley (thumb).
It's been slightly better in the SEC West, where only Arkansas' Brandon Allen, Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Tyler Russell have missed starts to injury.
"I guess it's a little bit of luck and some good protection from our offensive linemen, but I'm definitely thankful," Murray said Tuesday. "Obviously there are bumps and bruises along the way, and I've had my share of minor injuries here and there in my four years of playing, but knock on wood, nothing serious has occurred."
Murray has taken hits throughout his career, including a late shot by Auburn's Nick Fairley in 2010 and a blow to the helmet by Alabama's Quinton Dial in last December's SEC title game. Fairley was flagged for a personal foul, but Dial's hit was missed by the officials.
So which hit has been the worst?
"Definitely Alabama last year," Murray said. "That hurt a lot. That was pretty painful and was definitely the worst one."
The latest big hit he endured came in the final two minutes of the third quarter last Saturday. After dropping back into the end zone following a play-fake, Murray was blindsided by Gators cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy for a safety.
Murray had fumbled on a sack earlier this season against Missouri, which resulted in a return for a touchdown by the Tigers, but he held on against the Gators to prevent additional damage.
"I think it's just a lot of luck and having a good grip on the ball at the time," Murray said. "It also depends on the hit. Some guys, when they're blindsiding you, do a better job of getting their arm around you and swiping at your arm instead of just hitting you. That was more of just a hit instead of a swipe over the top to knock your arm, which can affect the ball a little bit."
Said Bobo: "I was proud he held on to that ball. He took a hit, and truthfully they all hurt when you're not looking."
Murray admitted he takes pride in simply being able to "get up and get going" on those Sundays he would rather stay in bed. Oddly enough, the 6-foot-1, 208-pounder battled elbow problems during his redshirt year in 2009 and broke his leg as a senior at Plant High in Tampa.
He has stayed healthy with the Bulldogs, however, as did David Greene when he started from 2001 to '04 and Matthew Stafford from '06 to '08. Joe Cox never missed a start in the '09 season, and the last Georgia quarterback to miss a start due to injury was Joe Tereshinski early in the '06 season, which helped open the door for Stafford.
"We're thankful that Aaron's been able to stay healthy throughout his career, and we want to keep it that way if at all possible," head coach Mark Richt said. "A quarterback like Murray knows that he's in the weight room for protection purposes as much as he is for running the ball and pounding people at the end of the run or that type of thing. He wants to be as quick and as athletic as possible, but he wants to be able to handle the fact that he's going to get hit from time to time."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...