The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Sports

August 9, 2013

BULLDOG PHENOM

Gurley riding high with bigger statue

TARBORO — Todd Gurley did a lot of amazing things for the Tarboro Vikings during his high school career, which included being a part of three state championships. He continued that success during his freshman season for the Georgia Bulldogs when he rushed for 1,385 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.

Gurley rose from the unknown to the unstoppable in a short amount of time last year.

Heading into his sophomore season, Gurley said he is the same guy as he has always been and nothing has really changed about him. Something has changed though and that's his size. He has bulked up during the off season and has gotten stronger.

Gurley, who is a huge specimen coming out of the backfield for the Bulldogs, continues to grow mentally and physically on the gridiron and his strength is off the charts as a college tailback.

The 6-foot-1, 232 pound tailback has been mentioned in preseason talks when the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and All-American prediction candidates are brought up.

"I am the same, man," Gurley said. "I mean I have paid attention to it, but it's not like I've got to get All-American or whatever the awards are."

Gurley had the second highest total yards rushing last season in the Southeastern Conference behind Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. But Gurley isn't worried about individual stats. He is a team player and wants the entire Bulldog team to be successful. They came up just short last season against Alabama in the SEC championship game. With a win, Georgia would've been in the NCAA title game. That loss has made Gurley and his Bulldog teammates stronger during the offseason knowing they fell short of a major goal.

"I'm just going in, me and my teammates," Gurley said. "I forgot the motto but we got our little motto and we're going to stick together."

Gurley broke into a laugh at his inability to recall this year’s team motto. He tried again to force it out of his memory banks. “One team, one dream… no, one team, new year… . I don’t know, I’m going to get it before camp is over with.”

Gurley laughed again, as did the reporters surrounding him. The actual motto is, “New Year, New Team, One Dream.” But Gurley’s recollection aside, he communicates at least one message clearly: He’s not taking himself too seriously.

And that has to be considered a good sign for the Bulldogs. One of the drawbacks – and there are few – of rushing for nearly 1,400 yards, scoring 18 touchdowns and earning consensus freshman All-America honors is all the outside “noise” that can come with it. Can you run down Herschel Walker’s single-season rushing record (1,891 yards)? Can you best Garrison Hearst’s single-season TD record (21)? How soon will you turn pro?

“As long as the team is winning, I could care less about anything, really,” Gurley said. “When they score, I score, we all score, and I’m just happy for the team. Hopefully I’ll match or get higher or at least get close to what I had last year. But if I don’t, it doesn’t matter as long as we win the games.”

Heading into their sophomore seasons, Gurley remains the undisputed No. 1 tailback. But all involved insist that means little more than he trots onto the field first.

Georgia will kick off their season against the Clemson Tigers Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. in Clemson, S.C.

(The Atlanta Journal Constitution contributed to this story)

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