ATHENS – Aaron Murray was excited last weekend, scheduled to do the traditional “calling the Dawgs” before Georgia’s game against Mississippi State. Murray and fellow former Bulldogs player Verron Haynes were listed on a pregame sheet included in materials passed out to the media.
But a couple of hours before the game, Murray was scratched. A communications official came by and scratched Murray’s name off those sheets. No reason was given. The initial word from UGA was that it was Murray’s decision.
Actually, according to the record-setting former Georgia quarterback, it was UGA that made the call. The school was worried about backlash over Murray picking his team to lose the game to Mississippi State.
Murray, speaking on his weekly podcast with former teammate Drew Butler, said he got a call Friday night from someone at Georgia, whom he declined to name.
“We think we might need to have you postpone you calling the Dawgs for another opportunity. We’re going to let Verron do it on his own,” Murray said he was told. “So I was like, ‘Listen, if you guys think it’s the best, then that’s fine with me. A little disappointed. But the last thing we wanted as a headline was, ‘Aaron Murray gets booed calling the Dawgs.’ Even it was a couple people you know the paper was going to pick it up.”
Murray and Butler’s podcast, entitled The Punt & Pass Podcast, had gone online by Friday, and Murray had indeed picked Mississippi State to win. He wasn’t alone, though Georgia was favored. Butler picked Georgia to roll, which it did, 31-3.
For the record, Murray said, that made him very happy.
“I had a strong feeling, and obviously I was wrong,” said Murray, who now works as an analyst for CBS Sports. “No one’s perfect in this business. I’m going to have a lot more games that I pick incorrectly too. I’m happy I was wrong in my decision. Just going back and watching the two teams, that was my thought. It was never where my heart was. My heart’s always with the Dawgs, baby. But I made an educated guess, and I was pretty off with that one, because the Dawgs came in and rolled them. So it was nice to see. I was just glad I was on the sidelines and not in the stadium because I wouldn’t have been able to get out of the stadium.”
On Thursday, a UGA spokesman told DawgNation: “Aaron had a conversation with a representative of the Athletic Association. He indicated he did not want to be a distraction. They agreed it may be best to postpone him calling the Dawgs. However, he was introduced on the field in the first quarter along with several other former players as planned.”
Indeed, Murray still ended up being introduced during the game among the 10 former Georgia players back for the game, including Champ Bailey. Murray said he was next to Brandon Boykin, who was announced next, and was worried that it would sound like people were booing Boykin.
When Murray’s name was called, it didn’t sound like there was booing, though some disagreed. Either way it was not a bad scene.
“Everything ended up being fine,” Murray said. “I don’t think there were any boos when they announced all of us, or at least when they announced me. So it was nice to hear. Definitely some heckling after that game.”
Murray said he got moral support from another Georgia legend now in the media. ESPN analyst David Pollack, who has incurred the wrath of the fan base occasionally for picking against the Bulldogs, texted Murray to tell him not to worry about it. And to get used to it now that he was in the media.
Butler and Murray were lighthearted about it on the podcast. Murray also said he planned to pick Georgia to win the rest of the way “unless something crazy happens.”
His former team apparently harbored no ill feelings. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney asked Murray to come by his office on Friday to spend some time together. Chaney also asked Murray to spend some time with the quarterbacks, including Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason.
Murray said he came away impressed with both.
“The Dawgs are in good hands with whoever they decide to go with,” Murray said.