Georgia football: Aaron Murray staying in Atlanta, protected by Legends

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Alliance of American Football held its Protect of Pick QB Draft on Tuesday. The Atlanta Alliance chose to protect former Georgia football quarterback Aaron Murray.

Georgia football legend Aaron Murray is staying home in Georgia. Fittingly with the Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football. The franchise coached by Brad Childress elected to protect Murray in Tuesday’s Protect of Pick Quarterback Draft.

As the protected pick, Murray is projected to start for the Legends when the inaugural AAF season begins on February 9. Murray is familiar with Atlanta’s first opponent; the Orlando Apollos. Their head coach is former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Meaning there should already be a fan rivalry between Atlanta and Orlando, because no self-respecting Georgia fan should like or admire Spurrier.

Murray joined the Legends last Tuesday, but with the draft a week away, his spot on the team wasn’t guaranteed. Keeping Murray in Atlanta both gives the Legends one of the best quarterbacks in the league, as well as pleasing thousands of Georgia football fans interested in the new winter-spring football league. The other quarterbacks on the Legends include:

  • Matt Simms: former starter and backup at Tennessee. Played in the NFL with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. Initially a member of the Memphis Express, drafted in the second round by Atlanta.
  • Peter Pujalas: four-year starter of the Holy Cross Crusaders. Signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent.
  • Justin Holman: former often-injured quarterback at Central Florida. Spent 2018 in the Canadian Football League.

These quarterbacks and the Legends offense are coached by offensive coördinator and former Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick. We’ll have to wait and see how much of Vick’s style rubs off on the quarterbacks. Murray and Vick were completely different quarterbacks, but Murray was also known at Georgia to take off and run when he had to. With Vick leading the offense, Murray will have the permission to run very often.

Each team in the AAF has four quarterbacks, and it’s hard to believe that any of them are better than Murray. But there is quarterback talent spread around the new league. The Arizona Hotshots drafted Oklahoma Sooner great Trevor Knight in the first round. The San Diego Fleet protected Josh Johnson, a 10-year backup in the NFL, moving over to the AAF trying to show what he can accomplish as a starter. Other big name quarterbacks in the AAF include:

  • Blake Sims – Birmingham Irons: Deshaun Watson’s predecessor at Gainesville High School, led Alabama to the playoffs in 2014.
  • Christian Hackenberg – Memphis Express: three-year starter at Penn State. Member of three NFL teams in 2018.
  • Marquise Williams – San Antonio Commanders: three-year starter at North Carolina. Played two seasons is the CFL. Originally designated to the Atlanta Legends.
  • Zach Mettenberger – Memphis Express: former Oconee County Warrior, Georgia Bulldog and two-year starter at LSU. Started 10 games in two years for the Tennessee Titans. Out of pro football since 2016.

The inaugural AAF and Atlanta Legends season will be here before we know it. Game one February 9 versus Orlando, one week after the Super Bowl. The Legends’ home opener is February 24 against Birmingham. Atlanta plays their home games at Georgia State Stadium, formerly known as Turner Field.

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The season runs through 10 weeks from February 9 to April 14. The top two teams from each division play in a four-team playoff. The first AAF Champion will be crowned in a a championship game on April 28.