Aaron Murray set numerous SEC and Georgia passing records as Georgia’s quarterback from 2010-13, leading the team to two SEC East titles along the way. After three years in the NFL, Murray has decided to pursue a career in broadcasting, and was hired this year to analyze games for CBS Sports.
Murray, who now lives in Atlanta, was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking about his new job, how it came about, and the time he turned down a chance to try out for another NFL team.
How did this all come about? Take me through the process of deciding that you were ready to step away from playing and to get into this?
Murray: "We've kind of been prepping for it really every offseason. I told my agent, This is what I want to do post-career, you never know when that time's going to be, but I wanted to start getting ready for it now. So I would do radio stuff, I would do TV stuff, I would go in and shadow, do some radio work, and I'd try to get on some radio shows here and there, just to practice and kind of get a reel going. So we did some of that.
“So we knew once it was – well I don’t know about calling it quits, because the door is still open if the right situation comes. But right now I’m feeling really good about the direction I’m in with CBS, and some other stuff as well. But the plan has kind of been in motion since the first offseason (since entering the NFL.)”
So you were a film rat who always prepared well as a player, and it was the same with this, you’ve been preparing for a while.
Murray: "Yeah, it's been perfect. Because a lot of what it is during the week is watching the film, doing a lot of reading on articles about the players, who's playing well, who's hurt, who's coming back, that kind of stuff. Watch a couple games for each team, get a feel for what they're doing, and then just go out there and call the game. That's what makes it fun, still staying around the game and doing the things I love to do, breaking down film. That kind of stuff."
Anybody you sought advice from before you got into it?
Murray: "I talked to (David) Pollack, I talked to (Matt) Stinchcomb, (David) Greene, guys who have been on TV. A bunch of CBS guys have been great with me, talking with me, and helping me out. And they have some great production guys who have been watching my first game, watching my first in-studio appearances and critiquing me, and helping me out along the way. It's just nice having some Georgia guys who are doing the similar thing to bounce ideas off of."
Were you nervous the first time you started calling a game – and it wasn’t a case of being able to do another take if it doesn’t work?
Murray: "Exactly. The beginning of our first game was … (laughs) … a rocky first start. Fumbling over my words for about the first 30-45 seconds. Then I calmed down a little bit, and then we were good to go for the rest of the time."
When you were a player, you had pregame briefings with the broadcasters who were doing the upcoming game, right?
Murray: "Yeah. It's crazy because both games I've done so far – I've shadowed a game, the San Jose game-USF, and then the FIU-UCF game was my first game – they only did coaches. So I guess some schools are a little more strict on allowing players to interview with the guys calling the game. But yeah, I remember sitting in there with the CBS guys on Friday afternoons, after the coaches, for about 10-15 minutes.
So what’s it like being on the other side of those meetings?
Murray: "A lot different. A little nerve-wracking. Especially it being my first go-around, and just being the youngest in the meetings. You're with a bunch of veteran guys, the announcers and then the producers for the show, and then obviously the coaches. So I think the coaches look at you initially like: Is this guy shadowing you guys? No, I'm calling the game. But it was fun my first go-around. As long as you go in there prepared, with good questions, and you know what you're talking about, I think they get a little bit more comfortable, and they get a little more comfortable once they realize I played the game. I know the jargon, and they can communicate a little easier with me."
Is there a long range goal in this business?
Murray: "Just keep getting better. CBS has been awesome. I really love the family dynamic. I also grew up watching the SEC on CBS, it's now kind of crazy that you're part of it. So just hope keep getting better and better, and hopefully show those guys I can handle the bigger games. It'd be awesome to be covering the SEC one day. It'd be pretty sweet."
It’s funny to hear you say ‘keep getting better and better.’ It’s the same thing you always said as a player. So you’re taking the same approach.
Murray: "I mean it's just like everything, and everybody's job in life. You start something and your goal should be to get better at what you do every year. For me this is a brand-new gig, and I'm hoping for improvements from week to week, and year to year. And the more I demonstrate that to them, hopefully the faster it is that I'll hopefully be covering SEC games."
Speaking of that, did you watch the Notre Dame game?
Murray: "Oh yeah."
What’d you think?
Murray: ""Great defense. That defense has been playing lights out. We knew that going into the season, the amount of guys they had coming back talent-wise. Offense made enough plays to win. They definitely missed a couple opportunities. I think that post-pattern drop towards the end of the game could have really sealed it. Unfortunate. But looking at it Fromm-wise, I like what he's done so far. Definite need to protect the ball. He's a gunslinger. Just watching it, the dude just lets it rip."
For more on Murray’s thoughts on Fromm, Jacob Eason and the Georgia quarterback situation, read this story from earlier in the week.
Where are you headed this weekend?
Murray: "I'm actually going to Gainesville to shadow the Tennessee-Florida game."
Would that be your first time at The Swamp for a game, or did you go there as a recruit?
Murray: "I grew up going to games, because we were just an hour-and-a-half away. And my uncle was a Bull Gator. So he was not very happy when I decided to go to Georgia."
This isn’t Murray’s only broadcasting endeavor. He’s teaming with former Georgia teammate Drew Butler on a podcast called “The Punt and Pass Podcast.”
Murray: "Drew is awesome. Drew has been doing a podcast here and there the last couple years. So he sounds like he belongs on TV and radio. He has the voice for it. … I think a punter got hurt yesterday so I might have to call Drew to see if he has a tryout or not. Because he's probably in the top two or three guys now waiting in the wings to see what happens."
When’s the last time you got a call? I know Jay Cutler got hired for TV but then the Dolphins called. So I guess you’re one call away too.
Murray: "Well it was crazy, I was actually up in New York at a seminar for CBS, and literally I'm outside at a lunch break, and I'm telling my mom, This is awesome, everyone at CBS is so great, yada yada – and then I get a call from my agent, saying: Hey the Ravens want to work you out.
“I’m like, Oh you’ve got to be kidding me. Here I am gloating about how great my life is and then I get the call. I go down there, and they presented me with a contract, and I just didn’t feel like it was the best situation for me. I thought it was more of a numbers guy in there while (Joe) Flacco was healing up. But that was an opportunity, and there’s been a couple more.
If the perfect thing – perfect thing – comes up, but I’m really enjoying this CBS gig right now.”