COLUMBIA, MO. — Greetings from Faurot Field. It’s a breezy and cool morning here in the great Midwest, where a rather significant Southeastern Conference game will commence shortly.
Just came up from the field where I got a chance to talk to former Bulldog Aaron Murray while the team warms up before the game.
First about the team: The Bulldogs are pretty fired up and motivated for this game. The gist I got from listening to the players and talking to some coaches down on the field is that they want to win it for Todd Gurley. They feel like their star player is a victim of the system and they want to bring victory back to Athens as a gift for him.
Interesting story coming out this morning that indicates that the autograph scandal that has ensnared Gurley may also entangle Florida State quarterback Jamies Winston. According to the website RacingToARedlight.com — I know, I hadn’t heard of it either — the same memorabilia authenticator that had more than 500 pieces of Gurley merchandise also has more than 100 pieces of stuff signed by Winston. So I guess there is the potential that this whole scandal could widen before it’s over.
And we’ve known for years that autographed memorabilia has been way for athletes to cash in on their fame, whether as an amateur or pro. I talked to Murray about the whole autograph phenomenon that pervades college athletics. He told me he resisted the urge — and opportunity — to trade on his celebrity while in college.
“It’s craziness, it’s tough,” said Murray, now a backup quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. “The system sucks. That’s all there is to it. We don’t get the opportunity to get a job or go to work to earn money while the university is making all this money on us. All players feel like something must be done.”
While Murray passed on the chance to make some money under the table while in college, he took full advantage of his autograph opportunities after his eligibility was exhausted. Murray contracted with a marketing group and help autograph and picture sessions in Atlanta and Athens and other places.
“I made good money,” Murray said. “It was nice. It’s America, you know. At the end of the day, you’re your own corporation. We’re Murray, Inc., Gurley Inc.”
As for today’s proceedings, Todd Gurley, you may have heard that he’s not here. But Georgia still has a shot to win this game.
The Bulldogs were 3-point favorites before the Gurley news broke on Thursday and Vegas took the game off the board. Obviously, some drop-off should be expected from Gurley to Nick Chubb and, moreso, from Keith Marshall and Sony Michel to Brendan Douglas and Kyle Karempelis as backups.
I’d expect the Bulldogs to generate more of a run-type game out of their passing game with quick screens and hitches to receivers. It should help that both Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are here and reportedly more healthy and ready to play.
But the rest of the matchups are the same, and this is an angry and focused Bulldogs’ team. It might serve Georgia well to be playing on the road and hanging out in the tight quarters of buses and planes and hotel meeting rooms.
Kickoff will be here before we know it. Going to be an interesting day. Let’s see what happens.