November 23, 2013 is a day that I will never forget. My dad and I sat on the University of Georgia’s 20 yard line, shivering in the 40 degree weather as UGA legend Aaron Murray carved up the Kentucky defense. This was Murray’s last home game, capping off a 4 year career that saw him become the best statistical quarterback in SEC history. On the final drive of the first half, at the Georgia 20 yard line, Aaron Murray was tackled on a seemingly meaningless play. But on that 20 yard line, right then and there, a legendary career ended. Murray had torn his ACL, and would never dress in the Red and Black again. Although the game ended at 59-17 in favor of Georgia, Dawg fans across the nation mourned for the end of a fabulous career.
On November 15, 2014, another Georgia legend suffered the same fate.
Todd Gurley, arguably the most popular UGA player ever (other than Herschel Walker), tore his ACL in a 34-7 Georgia win over Auburn. Gurley, the most talented running back in college football, will most likely never play for the Dawgs again (he is only a junior, but the Draft is awaiting him). After Murray’s injury, I thought I had seen as much sadness as possible over an injured college football player. I could not have been more wrong on that one. Not being able to see Gurley ever run on a college field is not only saddening to UGA fans, but college football fans across the nation.
Yes, many great running backs will come along in the future and take the nation by storm like Gurley did, but none of them will ever be Todd Gurley. Over his 3 year career at UGA, I saw Todd do things that only legends do on the football field. As an eager freshman, Gurley rushed for 1385 yards and 17 touchdowns, drawing immediate comparisons to the great Herschel Walker. Alongside Murray, he was 5 yards away from leading the Dawgs to a BCS National Championship game berth.
With great expectations, Gurley returned for his sophomore year. He rushed for almost 1000 yards on only 165 carries (ankle injuries slowed him down), scoring 16 total touchdowns to add on to his already amazing career. It was clear Todd was destined for greatness in his Junior season. Many fans, including myself, thought Gurley was a Heisman Trophy favorite. However, college football is college football, and nothing went according to plan. After torching defenses for 5 games, Gurley was sidelined with a suspension (thanks NCAA) for 4 games. He returned for Auburn, and played 3 and a half quarters before his knee gave out. He finished the season with 911 yards on 123 carries (7.4 YPC), adding on 11 touchdowns (1 passing and 1 kick return). In arguably the best game of his career, Gurley scored 4 total touchdowns while single-handedly leading Georgia to a win over Clemson.
Todd Gurley truly did have a legendary career; a career none of us will soon forget. I have never seen a runner with such a great combination of power and grace in both the backfield and open field; I have a feeling I won’t see another for quite some time. Todd, it was a pleasure watching you play for the Dawgs, and I am sure all college football fans would agree with me an instant.