Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray were separated by 5 yards in their classic 2012 Southeastern Conference championship game.
They were just as close during Saturday's fifth round of the NFL draft, with Murray going to the Kansas City Chiefs as the 163rd overall selection and McCarron going to the Cincinnati Bengals as the 164th pick. The two were hoping to get picked higher, with McCarron being pegged as a second-round selection in many draft projections.
"It's not about when you get picked," McCarron told the Cincinnati media. "It's all about where you go and making the most of it when you get there. I've always been doubted in some way, but I am putting myself to the side right now. I want to know my teammates."
McCarron was among eight Alabama players drafted. Only LSU had more with nine.
Murray was not showing any frustration after becoming the fourth Georgia quarterback in the Mark Richt coaching era to be selected, following David Greene in 2005, D.J. Shockley in 2006 and Matthew Stafford in 2009. He will be entering a quarterback mix under Chiefs coach Andy Reid that is headed by Alex Smith and also includes Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.
Bray, who bypassed his senior year with the Tennessee Volunteers, made the Chiefs roster last season despite not getting drafted.
"I'm not complaining one bit," Murray said in a conference call with Kansas City reporters. "It's an incredible fit. They do a heck of a job preparing quarterbacks, and I'm excited to get into that QB room and get in there and get a chance to know the guys.
"If they draft you, they want you to go in there and compete."
Chiefs scout Dom Green attended Georgia's 44-41 win over LSU last September and praised Murray's accuracy and productivity, citing his numerous SEC career records. Murray was one of only two Bulldogs drafted this year, with tight end Arthur Lynch going earlier in the fifth round to Miami.
"Aaron is a phenomenal leader," Green said in a news conference. "He's a guy his teammates really rally around and gravitate toward."
The slides that McCarron and Murray experienced became a talking point for much of Saturday's ESPN telecast. Once they were picked, the focus was on whether a team would take Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in draft history.
That question was answered late in the seventh round when Sam was tabbed by the St. Louis Rams as the 249th overall selection.
"In the world of diversity we live in now, I'm honored to be a part of this," Rams coach Jeff Fisher told ESPN.
McCarron was 36-2 as Alabama's starter until the Crimson Tide dropped their last two games this past season at Auburn and to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. He directed the Crimson Tide to two national championships but endured some not-so-pleasant critiquing during Saturday's telecasts.
ESPN reported that several NFL teams were rubbed the wrong way by McCarron projecting himself as a first- or second-round pick, while the NFL Network reported McCarron had "personality issues" and did not always have the respect of his teammates. McCarron said after the loss to Oklahoma that too many younger players didn't buy into the system and that some of them were selfish.
"I think I know how to win," McCarron said Saturday. "I know what it takes to win. I've always put in the work to win, and I don't accept anything less. I'm sure this organization is the exact same way, and that's why I love where I'm at.
"I can't wait to get up there."
Following the draft, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw signed a free-agent contract with Cleveland, which drafted Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick Thursday night. Also signing a free-agent contract with the Browns was former Georgia and Alabama State tailback Isaiah Crowell.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...