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Back at home: 5 questions with Aaron Murray

Tampa Bay raised Aaron Murray is ready for his next chapter with the Vipers

PLANT CITY, Fla. -- Tampa born and raised, Quarterback Aaron Murray had a five-star prospect career at H.B. Plant High School. As a junior, Murray threw for 4,102 pass yards and a state-record 51 TD passes. Not only did he have an arm, but his legs were a weapon as well. He scored 12 times on the ground while churning out 932 rushing yards. Murray’s opportunity to meet or surpass his junior year heroics was cut short after he suffered a broken left fibula and ligament damage mid-way through his senior season.

During Murray’s first season at UGA in 2010, he threw for over 3,000 yards in 13 games and was a Freshman All-American. In the seasons that followed, he set a slew of records for passing yards and passing TDs in a season. Murray racked up more passing yards (13,554) and TD passes (137) than any quarterback in Southeastern Conference history. His 2012 season numbers (3,825 passing yards and 39 TDs) rank No. 1 in school history.

Murray’s NFL career never took off like many projected it would, however.

After being drafted in the fifth-round of the 2014 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Murray was cut prior to the start of the 2016 season. From there, he bounced around the league. He spent some time on the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles practice squads before being scooped up briefly by the Los Angeles Rams but was cut in the spring of 2017.

In 2018, the Alliance of American Football came calling. Murray was protected in the second round by the Atlanta Legends and started in the final five games of the season. He finished with the highest completion percentage (64.8) of any AAF quarterback with at least 100 pass attempts.

Murray never had the opportunity to flourish in the AAF before the league folded, but he’s looking to redeem himself in the XFL. They say third time is a charm. sat down with the quarterback for 5 questions:

What was it like for you to be assigned to your hometown Vipers?

Murray: It was awesome! I was really excited to come back to Tampa; I grew up going to games at Raymond James Stadium. It was pretty cool to hear that we were going to be playing games there. Friends and family were even more excited than I was – [they were saying] finally we can wake up in our own bed and go to a game. We don’t have to travel to Georgia, or an SEC school, or to Kansas City or up to Philly. We can stay here in Tampa.” They live 10-15 minutes away from the stadium.

So, it’s great. This weather is incredible. We have to be play in New York Week 1 and Seattle Week 2, but we could be living in 30 to 40-degree weather all season. We get to come out here every single day and practice in 65, 70 degrees, be close to the water. It’s a great city; I love this city. It’s amazing what Tampa has done.

We’re still a few weeks away, but what are your thoughts about playing in front of family, friends and hometown supporters Week 3 versus the Roughnecks?

Murray: I’m excited. I already have friends, family, kids I went to high and middle school with, texting me, “We’re so excited you’re here!” and asking how they can get tickets.

I was out to dinner last night, before the Lightning game, and we already had fans say, “Hey, Aaron! We’re so excited for the season!” I think there’s a little buzz going on in Tampa right now. We have to go do our thing. I think we’re in a great situation. If we go out there and take care of business week-in and week-out for the first two weeks, I think we can create even more excitement to get some fans in the stands come Week 3 and 4.

Describe what the whole XFL/Vipers experience has been like for you so far?

Murray: It’s been fun. The amazing thing is the resources that was put into it. We’re in a facility with three fields; we have our own locker room and weight room; we’re playing at Raymond James Stadium. It is professional environment and they took time to make sure everything is perfect or near-perfect for the players and coaches. They really put us in an environment where we able to come in here and succeed as best as we can. Everyone is appreciative of the opportunity. They’ve done an incredible job. We have contracts with ABC and Fox, and ESPN. We’re going to be on primetime television every Saturday and Sunday. About 90% of those guys in the locker room want to get to the NFL. This is good exposure to see if we’re ready for that next stage.

Talk about the offensive players that you’ve started building a chemistry with?

Murray: Receivers, tight ends, running backs. It first starts with the chemistry with me and the offensive line. Being on the same page with protections and declarations off the mic (multiple players on offense will have helmets equipped with headsets); make sure that initial part of the game gets going, then we can start working on the outside. We have some studs. We have size. This is probably the biggest group of receivers, tight ends, and backs I’ve ever been around. We got dudes in [Nick] Truesdell and Seantavius [Jones] that are 6’5 that go can up and win 50/50 balls.

As a quarterback, things get chaotic and times. The pocket is a messy place, and it’s so much better when you got a guy with size come across the middle; you can throw it up and they can use their length and size to make plays for you. And we have speed, too. They’re not just a bunch of big sloths out there.

You look at Coach [Marc] Trestman and his past in a place like Chicago. He had Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, 6’3 and 6’5. He likes that, and I’m not complaining about that, either. 

What has your transition from Georgia to the NFL, AAF, and now the XFL has been like?

Murray: It’s been keeping my wife on her toes, that’s for sure. She wasn’t a football fan, but she’s getting used to football. She’s really happy we’re in Tampa right now because she gets to miss the Atlanta winter; it’s been pretty nasty. Bouncing around gets a little stressful at time, but it’s been fun.

It’s just been a blessing to be able to continue my career. Plus, I get to keep my TV job with CBS. With XFL in the spring, it doesn’t affect my gig calling college games on the weekends – so, I get to do a little bit of both.