ATHENS -- This was a topic that a few people around the Georgia football program weren’t too crazy talking about. They were nervous when they did.
Head coach Mark Richt said, “Do I have to answer that question?”
Richt again later, “I don’t want to talk much about it.”
The superstitions kicked in. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gave an otherwise straightforward answer, but made sure to say “knock on wood” halfway through.
And finally there was quarterback Aaron Murray, who was sitting on a wooden chair at the time, saying, “I’m knocking the crap out of this chair every time one of you guys bring it up.”
And he literally knocked ... for what seemed the 10th time.
Georgia has suffered a ridiculous amount of long-term injuries at the offensive skill positions this year, and the previous years have seen a bunch, too. And yet at the most important skill position, Murray is about to make his 50th straight start, dating back to the 2010 season opener.
“I guess it’s a little bit of luck,” Murray said. “Some good protection from our offensive linemen. But definitely thankful -- and obviously there’s always bumps and bruises along the way, and I’ve had my share of minor injuries, here or there through my four years of playing. But luckily, knock on wood, nothing serious has occurred. So let’s hope it stays like that.”
Murray’s durability has one casualty: Hutson Mason’s playing time. Here’s an incredible factoid: Mason is about to finish up his fourth straight year as Murray’s backup -- including last year, when Mason redshirted (because if Murray had gone down Mason was poised to burn the redshirt).
But Murray never got hurt. In fact, only twice has he had to be taken out of a game.
“It’s incredible,” said junior receiver Michael Bennett, who himself tore an ACL last year and a meniscus this year. “Quarterbacks don’t get hit as much, but they still get hit. It’s really unbelievable to see him never come out. It shows how tough he is as a player.
“Really, he’s one of the toughest guys I know.”
Murray also is one of the hardest working players in the weight room, according to Bennett. Murray is regarded as small (6-foot-1) for a quarterback, but there is muscle on that frame. He is listed at 207 pounds, and those who have stood next to him know his arms are surprisingly big.
“He works on those arms a lot in the weight room,” Bennett said, smiling. “He’s a tough guy. And takes care of his body more than anyone I know. He’s always in the training room, trying to get his body right. So obviously it’s paying off.”
Murray has been sacked 93 times at Georgia, and that doesn’t include the times he has been hit after a throw. He has carried the ball a total of 273 times.
“He’s taken some big licks,” Richt said. “That first year he relied a lot more on his feet if you remember and took some pretty good shots that year. But I don’t want to talk too much about it.”
The only two times Murray has had to leave a game because of injury were against Auburn. Last year he exited for one play but returned. As a freshman Murray was speared him in the back by Nick Fairley during the fourth quarter.
“I could’ve gone back in that game, and (the coaches) just said, ‘Sit down and relax,’ ” Murray said.
But Murray rates a hit by Alabama’s Quinton Dial in last year’s SEC championship as the worst of his college career. Dial blind-sided Murray away from the ball during an interception return.
“That hurt a lot,” Murray said, drawing out the words and smiling. “That was pretty painful. That was definitely the worst one.”
But Murray returned to the game.
The last major injury Murray suffered was in high school. As a senior in Tampa, Fla., Murray broke his leg. But even then he returned quickly. After being told he’d be out four months, he managed to return for the final two games of the year.
Murray was asked if he takes any special pride in his streak.
“I definitely do pride myself on being able to physically get up and get going. Because there are some Sundays where I wake up and say, I really don’t wanna get out of bed,” Murray said. “But I hate missing practice, I hate missing games.”
“He’s really resilient in his play and his attitude every week. And he’s a tough guy,” Bobo said. “I mean he’s taken some shots over the years, and gotten hit, and that’s part of playing that position. Knock on wood, he’s been a very durable guy.”