It could have been him: Aaron Murray knows plight of Justin Fields

Atlanta Legends QB Aaron Murray walks on the football field at Georgia State Stadium on Thursday, November 29, 2018. Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has signed to play with the Atlanta Legends in the new Alliance of American pro football league. The Atlanta Legends open up the inaugural season of The Alliance of American Football on Saturday, February 9 at 8 p.m. at The Orlando Apollos. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
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Atlanta Legends QB Aaron Murray walks on the football field at Georgia State Stadium on Thursday, November 29, 2018. Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has signed to play with the Atlanta Legends in the new Alliance of American pro football league. The Atlanta Legends open up the inaugural season of The Alliance of American Football on Saturday, February 9 at 8 p.m. at The Orlando Apollos. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

It could have been Aaron Murray.

The former Georgia quarterback knows just how it feels to be Justin Fields.

Fields is set to transfer from Georgia after his freshman season as he was unable to unseat incumbent Jake Fromm. Fields informed Georgia coaches of his intention and is now in the NCAA transfer pool. He reportedly is interested in Ohio State, Florida State and Oklahoma after one season in Athens.

In 2010, as a redshirt freshman, Murray was locked in a quarterback battle with classmate Zach Mettenberger. Murray eventually won out and went on to a four-year career at Georgia.

It could have been different.

“I was in a very heated battle with (Mettenberger),” Murray told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “I remember that headed into spring ball, I told my parents ‘Hey this is going to be a battle, and if Mett wins it, good for him. If he does win it, I’m not going to stay. I’m going to go somewhere and find a new home and find a place I can compete and try to earn a starting position.’

“You come in there with a group of guys, guys you committed with, the school, the coaches, but at the end of the day, you do want to play. You don’t want to sit there and ride the pine for three or four years. In my situation, Zach and I came in together. Whoever won, the other guy who stayed would have sat the entire time. We are all competitors. We all want to play. Sometimes you have to find a new home.”

After his career at Georgia, Murray was a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2014 and was released in 2016. He made NFL stops with the Cardinals, Eagles and Rams. Murray is now with the Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football, which begins play in February.

Murray said the transfer of players is the new way in college football. He doesn’t blame Fields for moving on. Fields would in all likelihood have been behind Fromm for at least one more season and maybe two more.

Murray said he saw the move coming, maybe even a year before, and that Florida could have been a landing spot for Fields.

“I hate to say that I saw it coming but it’s tough,” Murray said. “You have to appreciate that he was wanting to come in there and compete. I saw it last year, I even said it last December when Dan Mullen became the head coach of Florida, I can really see this kid going down to Florida. Feleipe Franks is a huge question mark. (Fields) is ideal for Dan Mullen’s offense. I thought he would make the flip then. Especially with Jake Fromm led (Georgia) to the national championship (game). How do you figure you are going to take that position?

“But you have to love the confidence. He figured he could go in there and do his thing. He thought he was a better athlete, a better thrower. It was definitely going to be uphill sledding. It stinks, but it’s something that Georgia is going to have to get used to because you are going to get top recruits year in and year out, and these kids want to play. It’s now so easy to transfer. You can go somewhere for a year or two and if it’s not working out, ‘hey, let me go somewhere else and try my luck.’ I think it’s going to continue to happen. It’s a good thing. It means you are getting a ton of good players and a lot of great talent. And they want to play and you can’t fault them for that.”

Murray said Georgia has to continue with Fromm, who led the Bulldogs to the national championship game last year and back-to-back SEC championship games. Fromm had Georgia on the verge of the College Football Playoff again the season until a 35-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship game.

“You’ve got to love the way he plays,” Murray said. “That SEC Championship (game) was stupid. What he was able to go out there and do. I told him after the game that was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen a quarterback play. He was on. Everything he threw was on the money, on time, accurate, where he receivers could catch it. He looked like he was the Heisman (Trophy) winner that day. He looked that way through the Georgia season. He had an unbelievable season.”

Fromm already supplanted one 5-star quarterback in Jacob Eason, who was injured early last season before the run for the national championship. He has done it again.

And it may happen again for Georgia as it has risen to a national power under coach Kirby Smart.

“This is a great problem to have,” Murray said. “You are getting top recruits year in and year out. This isn’t going to be the first time this happens. You don’t want it to happen but you do want to get 5-star after 5-star after 5-star. That’s the goal. You want to be competitive when it comes to recruiting, in the locker room, in practice, in the weight room. So you want to bring in the top talent. Guys who are the most talented and most competitive are not scared. They are not going to shy away from it. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out, this is the new norm to go find a new home.”