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Georgia’s Aaron Murray ‘almost didn’t get to say goodbye’

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray enters the field for the last time in a Bulldogs uniform Nov. 23 on senior night against Kentucky. (Reuters)

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray enters the field for the last time in a Bulldogs uniform Nov. 23 on senior night against Kentucky. (Reuters)

ATHENS — Despite everything that went wrong this past season at Georgia, Aaron Murray insists that he has no regrets about returning for his senior year.

Well, there is just one.

“That my last pass was an interception kind of stinks,” the record-setting quarterback said with a laugh on Friday.

Bulldog fans will likely give Murray a break on that. There is the matter of the 121 touchdown passes he also threw during his career, which is one of the four SEC career passing records he now holds.

And he was, after all, playing with a torn ACL at the time of that pick. He’d actually suffered the injury 13 plays before being carried off the field on Nov. 23 at Sanford Stadium. It was Senior Night against Kentucky, and Murray’s Georgia career ended with 4:11 left in the second quarter in the next-to-the-last game of the regular season.

“It’s almost like I didn’t get to say goodbye,” Murray said of the abrupt ending.

But Murray got that chance Friday, meeting with reporters for the first time since leaving the stadium that fateful night via Georgia State Patrol cruiser. He had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee three days later and is now well on his way to recovery.

“It’s going extremely well,” said Murray, who walked into the news conference at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall sans crutches and without a noticeable limp. “We’ve been really getting after it in rehab. I’ve been rehabbing pretty much all day long, and I’m already back in the weight room lifting again. My goal is to be back by Pro Day. We’re going to push it back as late as possible. … They think I’ll be looking pretty good by then to do drops, roll-outs and even run a 40 if I want to.”

The NFL Draft is not until May 7-9 this year. Georgia expects to host its annual Pro Day for its draft-eligible players in mid- to -late-April. Murray said he still plans to attend the Senior Bowl in January in Mobile just to attend meetings and interviews.

Murray said he has “no idea” where he projects as an NFL draftee.

“I haven’t been paying any attention to any of that stuff,” he said. “I’ve just been focusing on trying to get healthy.”

Murray has yet to hire an agent, but as of Saturday afternoon he was no longer an eligible college football player after signing autographs and taking pictures for $35 a person at Georgia Square Mall in Athens. He’ll do the same thing at North Point Mall in Alpharetta on Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. Some of the proceeds will go to Extra Special People Inc. (ESP), of Watkinsville, one of his favorite charitable causes. It’s the first chance Murray has had to capitalize on the fame he’s achieved at UGA.

“This is just the next step in the process,” said Murray, who estimated he has signed “tens of thousands” of autographs for free during his five years in Athens.

Nevertheless, Murray will remain as close as he can to the team. He’s hoping to attend quarterback meetings next week as the Bulldogs prepare for the Jan. 1 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, and he’ll watch the game from Georgia sideline.

Meanwhile, Murray was feted in New York City on Tuesday along with 15 other recipients of the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete postgraduate scholarship. Murray was on stage at the Waldorf-Astoria as one of four finalists for Scholar-Athlete of the Year. That honor went to Penn State guard John Urschel, but later in the week Murray was named the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

“I understand the grandeur of the Heisman and all that,” said his mother, Lauren Murray, who accompanied her son, along with father Denny and brother Josh. “But knowing some of the past recipients of (the Scholar-Athlete) award, who work in the community and in the classroom, and knowing the character of the 16 men that were there, I couldn’t be any prouder. These were truly extraordinary young men on and off the field.”

On the field, Murray became the first quarterback in SEC history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. He threw for 3,075 yards and 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions and rushed for a career best 186 yards and 7 TDs his senior season. He leaves as the SEC record holder for career TD passes (121), passing yards (13,166), total offense (13,562) and completions (921).

“I have absolutely no regrets,” Murray said. “I feel like I’ve personally improved a lot this year as a player. And I really love Georgia; I thoroughly love this place. I knew I loved Georgia when I committed, but I loved everything about the coaching staff, the campus and the tradition, and just being here for five years. It’s engraved itself deep in my heart now. I’ll be a Bulldog forever.”