ATHENS, Ga. -- There have been few positive, feel-good stories on this year’s Georgia football team.
But Kris Durham is one.
The player whom fellow receivers now in the NFL used to call “White Lightning” will play his final game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. He may deserve the most rousing Senior Day ovation from fans, considering his production and how long he waited for this kind of year.
Durham missed all of the 2009 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Injuries also held him back in 2008, after he showed promise as a freshman and sophomore.
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“He’s very underrated as a player,” Georgia tight end Aron White said. “And I think if he had stayed a little healthier … he’d be more of a household name here around Georgia.
Durham’s name recognition may have been bolstered among at least one important group: NFL scouts.
The 6-foot-5 always had the size for the next level and a good dose of speed, too; he qualified for the state track and field meet in five different events in high school.
The problem was Durham wasn’t getting much of a chance to show he could catch passes and make plays. That changed this year, when A.J. Green’s suspension shifted Durham into the featured receiving role the first four games.
Durham’s production tailed off a bit when Green returned but not too much. Durham settled into the No. 2 receiving role and still had some big games and catches -- the biggest one, coming on national television at Auburn, when he wrestled a long pass away from a Tigers cornerback.
That play caused a ruckus on Twitter among ex-Bulldogs watching the game. Mohamed Massaquoi, now with the Cleveland Browns, tweeted, “I see you Durham. We used to call him ‘White Lightning.’ Keep ballin’.”
So could Durham join Massaquoi and Michael Moore -- now with Detroit -- in the pros? It seemed far-fetched at the beginning of the year. But Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he thinks Durham “has an excellent opportunity” to play at the next level.
“I think a lot of the scouts have taken notice. They like what they see,” Richt said. “Of course, earlier in the year he had a little bigger role in that when A.J. wasn’t there he kind of became the go-to guy and responded well and made a lot of plays. They like his range and like the fact that he’s tall and can make plays. He’s never had trouble getting by people. He’s never had trouble getting open deep.”
But Durham speaks of another career as his ultimate goal -- being a teacher, either in middle or elementary school and possibly a coach. He graduated last year and has been taking graduate classes at Georgia.
Still, getting that master’s degree will wait while Durham pursues opportunities in the NFL.
“I always believed that I had the ability, but with the opportunities I’ve been given I’ve taken advantage of them, and I do believe I have a future in football,” he said this week. “I’m going to pursue that, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and see how it works out. If it doesn’t work out the way I want it to then I still have a lot of goals and different aspirations in my life, and teaching and coaching, that is one of them. I’ll still be a successful person in my eyes.”