ATHENS, Ga. - Aaron Murray was a constant at Georgia practice for nearly five years. He never even missed a practice on the way to starting 50 straight games.
Then he got hurt last November, and practically disappeared, at least from the team he left. It wasn't until Tuesday that Hutson Mason, his heir apparent as Georgia's quarterback, could remember seeing Murray at a practice.
"It was definitely weird," Mason said. "Him never being hurt, you never saw him just standing over there in a green jersey or with no pads on. Seeing him over there, it was definitely a little funky."
But the fact Murray went his own way, rather than hovering around the program, may have eased Mason's transition into his leadership role. Mason said he hadn't looked at it that way before Tuesday, but agrees that Murray may have helped him by staying away.
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"I think one of the great things is he kind of just passed the torch," Mason said. "He knew it was done, and he wasn't the guy that was still soaking up the attention. Because he could've been hanging around just to get the pats on the back and stuff. When it was over he just passed the touch, and he was just so complimentary, saying, 'Hey I'm here for you.' When a guy is like that it just makes you love him and enjoy him more."
Murray finished his career as the most prolific passer in school history, breaking numerous records, including some at the SEC level. His career ended on Nov. 23, near the end of the first half against Kentucky, after staying on the field 13 plays after tearing his ACL.
Two days later Murray popped into the film room, a testament to his reputation as a film rat. He told coaches he wanted to remain around the program.
But as time went on, and as he rehabbed his knee, Murray ended up remaining largely out of view. Whether it was intentional or not on Murray's part, the result was that by the time Murray came back on Tuesday, it had long become Mason's team.
"It made me just realize that, Hey, this is your team now," Mason said. "Because this has been Aaron's team, his campus for four or five years. His town. For him to be finally like: Here it is, it's all you now, it was something you can't put words around. But you knew it was time to go to work."