ATHENS, Ga. - Students may have to hold off bringing Kris Durham apples in the classroom.
The fifth-year senior receiver graduated from the University of Georgia this past May in middle school education and was mapping out a career in teaching and coaching. That was before he landed on the NFL's radar by becoming Georgia's go-to guy during A.J. Green's absence and compiling more yards this season than his first three years combined.
"I always knew that teaching was what I wanted to do, but I always had the dreams and aspirations to go to the next level," Durham said. "Hopefully, those dreams will come true. I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to give it everything I have.
"It's one of those things where if I don't make it, I have my backup plan."
Durham has compiled 26 receptions for 522 yards and two touchdowns in nine games this season, missing the Colorado and Idaho State contests because of injuries. The 6-foot-5, 212-pounder from Calhoun (Ga.) High missed last year with a torn labrum and was being counted on this season to provide leadership and reliability in support of Green's dynamic abilities.
That all changed when Green was sidelined for September by the NCAA for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000.
In the four games Green missed, Durham caught 17 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown. He had a reception of at least 40 yards in each of those contests except the Sept. 25 trip to Mississippi State, when a 40-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray just before halftime was shortened by a holding penalty on fellow receiver Marlon Brown.
"Durham, I thought, would be a good player for us, but he's shown the ability to be our deep threat and get behind people," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said during Green's suspension.
His early showing and the games since - Durham had a career-best 112 yards in the Oct. 16 trampling of Vanderbilt - has the attention of NFL scouts. One AFC team's scouting director believes Durham may get drafted next April and will be among the top free-agent targets nationally if he doesn't.
"When A.J. was suspended for those games, he really took advantage of it," the scout said. "He's a good-sized guy with good hands who's made good catches all season and had another one last Saturday. I think he's one of those guys whose speed is average and his athletic ability is average to good, but he's a sure-handed receiver.
"He's going to have to find his niche, whether it's special teams and being a backup receiver, just to make a squad, but there are guys like that who play in the league for a long, long time."
Durham should have no problems in interviews with interested franchises, having been a fixture on the SEC's academic honor roll since enrolling in January 2006. He spent this past spring not only practicing with the Bulldogs but as a student-teacher at Oconee County Middle School in Watkinsville, an experience he said he would always cherish.
Now there is something else potentially to treasure, something that didn't seem plausible a year ago.
"I think I've taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities I've been blessed with," Durham said. "I'm going to go train and do whatever I can, because I enjoy playing that much. It's not really about the notoriety or the money aspect. I just enjoy playing. I have a passion for playing just like I have a passion for teaching."
The Bulldogs held their second and final practice of the week Thursday, with Murray remaining hobbled by a bruised bone in his knee and a chest contusion.
"Aaron was throwing nice and easy, and that didn't bother him," head coach Mark Richt said. "However, he didn't throw anything that resembled a route. He was just playing catch and said there was no pain throwing. We hope he can go and do everything Monday."
Should Murray be unable to play next Saturday against Georgia Tech, freshman Hutson Mason would start with junior receiver Logan Gray and freshman walk-on Parker Welch as the backup options.
Boise State in 2011?
Reports surfaced Thursday that Georgia may be pursuing an opportunity to face Boise State next Sept. 3 in the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs are scheduled to open next season against Louisville, while the Broncos are scheduled to open at Ole Miss.
Richt did not comment on the possibility but said he might know more by Monday.