Aaron Murray growing into a leadership role with Georgia

semerson@macon.comOctober 25, 2012 

ATHENS -- Here’s a safe bet: You never will read a story about Aaron Murray ripping into his teammates. Actually, there’s a good chance you never will hear Murray rip into anything.

There might be no more upbeat, happy-go-lucky member of the Georgia football team than its junior quarterback. Some would call it blind optimism. But to Murray it is simply embracing the positive and using it to fight through adversity both serious -- his father’s cancer -- or football-related.

Or, in Murray’s own words this week, “Fake it till you make it.”

He explained further.

“Especially as a quarterback, I’ve gotta make sure I have a high energy level, no matter what’s going on in my life,” he said. “Personally, to academics, to whatever. I’ve gotta make sure I go out there every day in practice, running around and screaming, having fun, making sure guys are ready to go. And I think that confidence and that energy really gets put off on those guys.”

The subject of emotional leadership and providing a spark has been a big one this week for the Bulldogs. Senior safety Shawn Williams ignited it with his scathing comments Monday night about his defense, saying it played too soft, which caused a couple of teammates to take offense.

Part of the reason you won’t see similar comments from Murray is there is no need. Other than the loss at South Carolina (an across-the-board failure), the Georgia offense has been very good, ranking 18th nationally and second in the SEC in total yards.

Behind the scenes, however, teammates and coaches say Murray has come out of his shell a bit as a leader. It’s not confrontational in nature, but he is unafraid to get in a player’s face if there is a mistake.

“One thing we talked about in the offseason is stepping up and being a more vocal role of being a leader and holding people accountable. And I think he’s done that,” said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who himself was a quarterback for the Bulldogs in the late 1990s.

But according to Bobo, it’s not just a matter of Murray criticizing teammates.

“He’s been critical of himself at times in front of the guys, which I think is good,” Bobo said. “He’s always gonna lead his natural way, and that’s his work ethic and the way he goes about his business. He can’t change who he is, and I don’t want him to be something he’s not. … But there are times when a leader has to step up and voice his opinion, their displeasure at what they’re seeing, what we’re doing.”

So is a quarterback invariably the player who sets the tone on offense? Sometimes, according to Bobo and Georgia head coach Mark Richt -- also a former quarterback, at Miami in the 1980s.

But it was a lineman, center Ben Jones, who was the emotional leader for Georgia’s offense for most of the past four years.

“But I think everyone feeds off the quarterback, especially game day,” Richt said. “If he’s playing well and you look in his eyes and he looks like he’s confident, then he’s under control, and he’s doing the things you need to do to win, then I think everybody feeds off the quarterback on game day.”

Murray said there are instances when he needs to be “a little more demanding and vocal” and indicated he’s still feeling his way around that. It’s not something that comes as naturally to him as it does to Williams.

“Everyone has their different ways of speaking up and getting guys to get pumped up and motivated. I’ve always been the guy to work hard and show guys that I’m working hard, and get guys pumped up that way,” Murray said. “But I definitely think this year I’ve taken a step and become more vocal, and more demanding, really rounding out that whole leadership stuff.”

Of course, there are other responsibilities with being the quarterback. For Murray, that means being asked about the team’s record in games.

For all that Murray has accomplished, most recently breaking David Greene’s school record for career touchdown passes, the rap on him is still that he can’t win the big game. Since 2010, the Bulldogs are 2-8 against ranked teams, and those two wins came against teams that didn’t finish the year ranked. Murray was asked a lot about it the week leading up to the South Carolina game. This week, entering another chance to prove himself in a big game, Murray was asked if the question makes him incredulous or he understands where the critics are coming from.

“I just ignore it,” Murray said. “I just don’t even think about it, really. I’m not playing Florida and any top team myself. I just gotta go out there and execute and have fun and play ball.”

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