The Red & Black’s assistant sports editor Augusta Stone spoke with former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray ahead of this year’s matchup with Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. A four-year starter from 2010-2013, Murray holds the Georgia record for most career passing yards (13,166) and the SEC record for most career pass completions (921). Murray was raised in Tampa, Florida, and was a 2018 inductee into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame.

Augusta Stone: What were your memories of the Florida-Georgia matchup before you even thought about going to college? 

Aaron Murray: I grew up watching it as a Florida fan, not as a Georgia fan, just being from the Florida area, being about an hour and a half from Gainesville. I’d go to tons of Florida games. I’m a Florida kid, so I would be wearing my ugly orange and blue, cheering the Gators on during that game. It’s kind of funny that fast forward, and I’m wearing the red and black playing in that same game. My biggest memory was probably the year that Georgia, and I think it was ’07, when they scored and rushed the field. I was like ‘Dang, I can’t believe they have the guts to do that against the Gators with Tim Tebow and all those guys.’ Knowshon [Moreno] and [Matthew] Stafford didn’t care. They went out there and dominated the football game. So at that point, I’m like, maybe this Georgia team is pretty darn good. You know, maybe I’ll give them a check going forward in the future.

Stone: What was your favorite part about having the game held in Jacksonville every year?

Murray: Crossing the bridge. When you cross the bridge, you get into the area where the stadium is and see all the flags, all the tents, and you’re like ‘Man, this is college football. This is a special environment.’ And for me during the game, as a quarterback, you’re right in the middle of it, you are smack dab in the middle of the field. You look up to scan the linebackers and the safeties to figure out ‘OK, what coverage are they going to be in, are they going to bring a blitz,’ kind of going through your routine, and you look up and you see that divide. You see the divide of fans, of red and black on one side, and orange and blue on the other. It is, from my perspective, the most beautiful sight you will ever see in college football. It is the most intense, intimidating, awesome. I mean, every adjective you could throw at it. It’s a sight to see, and it’s something that I will always remember. 

Stone: There’s been a lot of talk about moving the game to a home-and-home. What’s your perspective on moving the game to Athens and Gainesville? 

Murray: I love Jacksonville because I love the split. So I’m kind of torn because I would have loved to play in the Swamp. It’s the place that I grew up in. And there’s so much crossover with kids. From kids that grew up in Florida playing at Georgia and kids that grew up in Georgia that play for Florida. I think there’s a lot of players that would like to play in each other’s stadium. I know there’s a bunch of Florida players that would’ve loved to play in Sanford. Like I said, I would’ve loved to play down there in Gainesville. But I do love that moment when you look up and see the stadium split in half. It’s pretty awesome. So I’m kind of on the side of — to make it a little bit more fair — I would love to see it go back and forth between Jacksonville and Atlanta. It really is a little bit more [for Georgia] when it comes to travel, and when it comes to fans around the stadium, a little bit more in favor of Florida.

Stone: As a player, which victory felt the sweetest? Is there a specific play you remember? 

Murray: The most fun I had during the game was probably my junior year [2012], and that’s gonna be the answer for both questions. It was just a great football game. It was back and forth. It was awesome. I mean, big play after big play on both sides of the football. Down to the wire. And that brings me to my favorite play of all time, [which] was the pass to Malcolm Mitchell. Florida brought a pressure. Malcolm had what we called a lightning route on the outside, which is pretty much an 8-yard hitch, 8-yard stop on a dime. It’s a timing throw, I just have to hit my third step to let it rip. Threw it, and he made a great catch, broke a tackle, ran down the field, split two defenders, and scored a touchdown for us to take the lead and solidify our victory in that game. I think we actually might have been leading, I’m not 100% on it. Either way, we were leading by like one point or something like that, or we took the lead at that moment. But that is just the play that I will never forget — just how athletic Malcolm was to catch the ball, break a tackler, and then go down there and split two more and score the touchdown.

Stone: Have you attended the game as a fan since playing in it?

Murray: Yeah, I actually got to go for the first time last year. I never went to the game as a kid growing up. I just watched it on TV. And then last year, I remember I asked CBS ‘Hey, can I take one weekend off? I’ve never been to the Georgia-Florida game, I would love to go just one time.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ll give you the weekend off. Sure thing.’ I was like ‘Heck yeah.’ It was awesome. I actually was inducted into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame that weekend, so it was really special to go back with my family [and] my wife and have that honor. It was really, really special. The game is a tremendous game. So to be honored in that way was really cool. And I got to experience the whole thing. You know, we got there I think Thursday night. And then Saturday is ... now I can understand why people love it so much. It’s pandemonium everywhere. There’s a lot of fun, a lot of excitement, a lot of drinking, a lot of partying, a lot of celebrating. And luckily, I went to a game where Georgia beat them up pretty good, so it was a lot of fun being on the field and celebrating afterwards with the team.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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