Todd Gurley was good. Everyone knew that when he committed to Georgia on Jan. 14, 2012. There were few, however, who knew he would be special. Bryan McClendon, the Georgia running backs coach who recruited him, was one of the few who realized what the Bulldogs had in Gurley coming out of Tarboro, North Carolina. For the rest of his teammates and coaches, it took until his arrival on campus two years ago. Then, the legend quickly grew.
JORDAN JENKINS, linebacker: “When we were freshmen, I was at Rankin (the academic center for athletes) for study hall, and I saw Todd across the room. I’m looking at him, and I’m like, ‘This guy’s darn near my size, and he’s running the ball?’ And seeing him when we first got on pads in camp, I was like, ‘He’s gonna be the real deal.’ ”
MARK RICHT, head coach: “The first time in two-a-days (in 2012) that we had some live runnings, a team-run drill we call it, and just kind of watching him run. (Laughs.) Watching him break tackles. He was impressive. You’re like, ‘Whoa. There’s something to this guy.’ ”
MIKE BOBO, offensive coordinator: “When he came out there in pads, I was like, ‘This guy is pretty big.’ ... We thought he was a good player, a strong running back. But I don’t think you ever know until they get here. There are a lot of factors that determine when a kid takes off or how he takes off. No, I could never imagine (he’d be this good).”
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McCLENDON: “I thought off film obviously when I first saw him that he was a very good player. There’s different levels of competition across the country so you’ve gotta kind of factor that stuff in. But the one thing that I did see was how competitive he is, and you see all the athletic ability that he has, the balance and the speed and power and the vision, the ability to bend and short-area quickness and all that stuff. You definitely get a chance to see how actually physical he is, how he attacks contact and how he is naturally on contact. That was what I saw as soon as I saw him play.”
RAMIK WILSON, linebacker: “When he first got here, he was 215 (pounds). He was still a tall dude. He wasn’t all that big, but he had good size, and then it just happened, a week later he was like 230. Everybody was like, ‘What the (heck)?’ I mean it felt like it was one week, but it was probably two months when he started lifting and eating right, (then) he was like 230. It was like, ‘Holy (crap) we’ve gotta tackle this dude?’ ”
KOLTON HOUSTON, offensive tackle: “Watching in camp (in 2012) you could see he was gonna be a pretty special guy. Just the runs he would make in camp, the vision. And how humble a guy he is. You don’t see that a lot, especially at the running back position these days. Todd really is one of the most humble guys I’ve seen.”
MARLON BROWN (then receiver, after the first preseason scrimmage in 2012): “Todd Gurley had some beast runs out there. I was like, ‘Is that a freshman out there?’ ”
SHAWN WILLIAMS (then safety, after the same scrimmage): “I know the hole was kind of crowded, and he bounced it outside and took off, and that was it. You expect him to run inside because he’s a bigger back, and he bounces outside and took off for 40. All I see is that (jersey number) three, and I’m like, ‘He’s got a little body like (Trent) Richardson.’ ”
DAMIAN SWANN, cornerback: “It was one of those scrimmages during camp he might’ve touched the ball two or three times, and he was running wild. We were like, ‘Who is that?’ Then he slowly kept progressing, and look at him now. He’s one of the best.”
JOHN THEUS, offensive tackle: “We had no idea how good he could be. And I remember that first scrimmage him just going off. We were just mesmerized. So we knew at that point he was pretty special. But I guess we could never guess how far he would come and how hard he would work and how good he was.
MIKE THORNTON, defensive tackle: “It was the kickoff against Buffalo (in the season opener), when he brought it back (100 yards). I knew right then and there that he would be in this position.”
JENKINS: “And after that kick he ran back against Buffalo, I knew that he was gonna be a great, great running back. ... I knew at that point he was one of the greatest running backs in the SEC. Just watching him play, it clicked at that moment that he was that kind of guy.”
DAVID ANDREWS, center: “He was real shy when he got here, and I’ll always remember that, and that’s not the case now. I definitely remember during camp him being special at times. But you don’t really get a good grip on that until the games, because practice is so controlled. We’re not tackling all the way at times. You don’t really get a good image of that. But I think kind of where I was like ‘wow’ was the SEC championship game where he just pounded that ball all game. He did a lot of things that whole season but that game I was like, ‘Wow this kid is really special.’ ”
HUTSON MASON, quarterback: “I remember Keith (Marshall) being the guy where everybody was like, ‘Oh we got Keith,’ then we got Gurley. It just goes to show you really never know what’s going to happen until a guy gets here. If Keith would have stayed healthy, I think he would have definitely been as much that guy like people are talking about Todd with.”
WILSON: “He’s always been great. But he improved a lot. I think his speed improved a lot and his receiving, too. I think he’s a better receiver than runner, honestly. I mean when you get the ball in his hands and try to cover him one-on-one it’s a mismatch. He’s something special.
MASON: “It just seems like every game there’s a play or two where you’re like, ‘Wow.’ Whether it’s him hurdling somebody or breaking four tackles, showing some type of freaky athletic ability. It seems like there’s something every game.”
GREG PYKE, guard: “You’re thinking, ‘Wow I definitely should have made that block better, but Todd still got in the end zone.’ Especially this year, he’s hurdling guys left and right all over the field. He gets you excited because you love to play for a guy who’s trying his all out there, trying to get all those extra yards. It makes you play better too.”
THEUS: “I remember watching a ’30-for-30’ on Bo Jackson, and the coach was like, ‘People only get to see Bo do stuff once a week, I get to see him do stuff every day in practice.’ That’s the same thing with Todd. We get to see a lot more than the average person, and just every day he amazes us with stuff. The kid’s a special player, and it’s an honor to play with him, to be his friend, to be his roommate before and stuff like that. It’s an honor. It’s fun because he’s just a goofy kid, he’s a fun-loving kid, and he’s a friend, as well. It’s good to be able to know him.”