They had to wait a long time to hear their names called, but they finally did mid-afternoon Saturday, and Aaron Murray and Arthur Lynch realized their lifelong dreams of becoming NFL players.
It was fitting that the two Georgia players would be selected within eight picks of each other in the fifth round — Lynch at No. 155 overall to the Miami Dolphins and Murray 163 to the Kansas City Chiefs. They’ve been practically attached at the hip over the past five years.
They both came to Georgia in 2009 from out of state, were redshirted their first year in college, and roomed together and played together most of the past four years. Both of them ended up playing at a high level for the Bulldogs. Lynch, a 6-foot-5, 258-pound tight end from Dartmouth, Mass., was named first-team All-SEC this past season. Murray received several national and all-conference awards as he finished as the SEC’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
“Congrats to my brother @alynch1788. Proud of ya brother,” Murray tweeted minutes after Lynch was selected.
As a senior this past season, Lynch appeared in 12 games, making 11 starts, and had 30 receptions for 459 yards and five touchdowns. He was voted to Associated Press All-SEC First Team and the All-SEC Coaches’ First Team and also named to the SEC first teams of Sporting News and Phil Steele. Lynch, who was chosen as the Bulldogs offensive captain for 2013, set a career-high with six catches for 69 yards in his final game in the Gator Bowl. He was invited to and participated in the Senior Bowl.
Murray left Georgia in December with SEC career records for completions (921), passing yards (13,166), TD passes (121) and total offense (13,562), and is second in the SEC in career pass attempts (1,478) . He became the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in four consecutive seasons. This past season, Murray appeared in 11 games, making 11 starts. But his season and career was cut short when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the second quarter of the Kentucky game. The injury happened late in the second quarter and he already was 18-for-23 for 183 yards and four TDs. He was voted to Associated Press All-SEC Second Team
Murray created all kinds of chatter among draft analysts as he continually got passed over for other quarterbacks. Three quarterbacks were taken in Friday’s first round: Central Florida’s Blake Bortles (Jacksonville), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (Cleveland) and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota). Fresno State’s Derek Carr went to Oakland with in the second round and Eastern Illinois’s Jimmy Garoppolo was picked by New England with the 62nd pick. Even Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas was chosen before Murray on Saturday.
But it says something to a quarterback when Dan Marino is talking about them. As the second and third rounds of the NFL draft ticked by on Friday, one of the the NFL’s all-time leading passers tweeted that there may be a steal to be had in the later rounds.
“Look out for Aaron Murray, still recovering from a major injury but could be a gem in the late rounds. #QBDraft,” Marino tweeted.
But Murray had a lot of obstacles to overcome. There were concerns about his height (6 feet, ½-inch) and the size of his hands. And then, of course, the knee injury. But the Tampa native put on a great show for NFL scouts at UGA’s Pro Day, just 4 1/2 months after having reconstructive surgery.
“I’ve played more games than anybody quarterback in this class, 52 starts in the SEC,” Murray told the AJC. “So the film is there for them to see. It’s just about showing them that I’m healthy and ready to go and the person on that film is the person they’re drafting.”
Draft action was slow in coming for the Bulldogs on Saturday. It was the first time since 2008 and only the second since Mark Richt has been head coach that no Georgia player went in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
There is an explanation for that. The most players Georgia has ever had in a single year of a seven-round draft was last year (and 2002) with eight.