South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, who's ironically lauded for being humble, went to SEC Media Days this year and rattled off a trio of quarterbacks that are scared of him.
One of them, Tyler Wilson, is gone to the Oakland Raiders of the NFL (kind of). Another, Tajh Boyd, whom Clowney sacked 4.5 times last season, will get a rematch with South Carolina on Nov. 30.
And finally, Clowney named Georgia's Aaron Murray.
Murray is the subject of much criticism, attracting it like a flame does a moth whenever the Bulldogs lose. He has a very good chance of throwing for 13,000 career yards, a number that would put him in the top 10 all-time among FBS quarterbacks and first in SEC history. But his 4-11 record in games against ranked opponents supersedes that fact, in some conversations, and makes him a popular scapegoat.
There's a stigma about quarterbacks who "can't win the big game," as if football were tennis and only quarterbacks played a role in the outcome. Those who excel at the position are written about in hagiographic tones, while those who struggle are treated like lepers.
That logic extends past mere football incompetence. Because quarterback is the ultimate position—reserved for the ultimate "man"—those who fail under center are somehow regarded as craven. Especially when someone has a skill set like Murray's, the inability to win is ascribed to testicular fortitude (or a lack thereof) over talent.
Put more succinctly: Quarterbacks who lose big games are cowards.
Clowney has sacked Murray twice in two career meetings, and the first was admittedly demeaning. Georgia trailed by three, 35-38, with just over three minutes left in the game. Clowney burst through the line (seemingly untouched) and got straight to Murray, who tried to duck out of the way but ended up fumbling the ball.
South Carolina's Melvin Ingram picked it up for a touchdown:
Last year was less ugly, as Clowney burst by left tackle Kenarious Gates—again, straight into the backfield—and took Murray down from behind:
In both cases, though Murray didn't make much of a play, the offensive line was at fault for letting Clowney through. Murray didn't hear footsteps or get cold feet because he knew Clowney might be coming. He got hit, and fast, because Clowney was already there.
The whole notion of Murray—or anyone—being "scared" of Clowney is a false narrative. It was born at an event, SEC Media Days, that exists solely to create stories where none exist. And it was said by a man who didn't know how literally his comment would be taken.
Murray wants to win on Saturday, and because Clowney is an obstacle between himself and that outcome, perhaps he's scared that the All-American end will get in his way.
But by that token, like a bumble bee, he's no more scared of South Carolina than South Carolina is of him.
The idea that Murray sits in the pocket panting, or tosses in bed the night before the game or pleas with Clowney like he's facing The Waterboy—all of it is a farce. And those who claim Murray lives in fear or that he isn't enough of a man to win big games should take some time to properly reassess what they're saying.
He's 22 years old and has already started 42 games (and counting) against a conference whose defenses many liken to those in the NFL. He's taken hits you and I couldn't dream of and still managed to get up for the next play. Every time he buckles his chinstrap, he understands the inherent risk of playing such a targeted position in such a violent sport.
But he buckles it up regardless.
Murray doesn't have time (and has too much at stake) to be "scared" of another human being—no matter how questionable, in Clowney's case, that designation might be.
As alluded to earlier, he might end up the SEC's all-time leading passer and still be regarded as a disappointment. His record against quality teams could sully a Hall of Fame career. That's how much this game, and really the rest of this season, matters toward Murray's legacy.
The thought of that following him around is scarier than any defensive end, or any defensive player, at any level of football.
Even one as terrifying as Clowney.