ATLANTA, GA– Todd Gurley is heading back to familiar surroundings. The Los Angeles Rams running back is going back to the city where he led his Collegiate Georgia Bulldogs to an SEC Championship Game appearance. Six years later, he will be competing on Pro Football’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl, hoping to lead the Rams to the franchise’s second world championship. In 2000, the Rams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta. Gurley would like a similar fate on Sunday night against the New England Patriots.
“There’s no better feeling than playing in the Super Bowl,” said Gurley.
Before Todd Gurley was a Super Bowl running back, he was born in the football city of Baltimore, Maryland. At six years old, Gurley was already playing football with nine and 11-year-olds in a Pop Warner League. The toddler was the star of the team.
When Gurley committed to Tarboro High School, he was a tri-sport star. Football, basketball, and track were the sports where young Gurley shined. While success was achieved on the basketball court and as a world-class hurdler and sprinter, Gurley decided to fully pursue football.
The decision paid off. The young running back earned North Carolina Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year after running for over 2,600 yards and 38 touchdowns. In the 2A North Carolina State Championship, Gurley showcased his star power in a big game. He ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns, giving the Tarboro Vikings the State Championship. It would be foreshadowing for the illustrious career Gurley would possess.
Move Over Herschel Walker, Here Comes Todd Gurley
Football has been entrenched in Georgia culture for generations. The Georgia Bulldogs, in particular, have prided themselves on their savvy ability to bring in top-notch talent at the running back position. In the 1980s, it was Herschel Walker, a three-time All-American who won both the Heisman Trophy and National Championship. Flash forward to the 21st century and it was Todd Gurley.
Attempting to win over a fan base that still was crazed over Herschel Walker was no easy task. But Gurley’s speed and physicality, starting in his freshman year, made him an unstoppable force in college football. In his 2012 freshman season, the running back had 222 carries for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, becoming the second Georgia Bulldogs tailback to generate over 1,000 rushing yards in a season. The other Dawgs running back to do so…Herschel Walker. Talk about an elite company.
It is clear that the correlation exists between being a Georgia Bulldog running back and NFL success. Terrell Davis set the standard for Bulldog running backs acquiring NFL postseason accolades. He became the second Georgia player to win a Super Bowl MVP after his Denver Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 32. Flash forward to Super Bowl 53, and both the Rams and the Patriots starting running backs are from the Georgia Bulldogs. Not only will Georgia alum Todd Gurley be suiting up on the field but Sony Michel, who is leading the NFL postseason stats with 242 yards and five touchdowns for the Patriots.
Gurley answered very candidly when asked this week about what makes Georgia running backs different than other schools.
“We’re playing in the Super Bowl.”
Gurley 100 Percent Heading into Super Bowl
The Los Angeles Rams knew they were going to get a future star when they drafted Todd Gurley in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. In the 2017 season, he had a career-high season, with 1,305 rushing yards and an NFL leading 13 touchdowns on the ground. In addition to his ability to use his physicality to run up the middle and find holes for big gains, Gurley has become a receiving threat for Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Gurley generated 64 receptions for a career-high 788 yards in his third season. His versatility has redefined the running back position, making Gurley one of the biggest offensive threats on the field.
But towards the end of the 2018 season, Gurley went down to a serious knee injury. While deemed 100 percent healthy now by Rams head coach Sean McVay, the running back has not looked the same the last few weeks. In the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints, Gurley only ran the ball four times for 10 yards. For the Rams to have success Sunday night, they need to dictate the tone by running the football to set up Jared Goff and the passing game. Coach McVay doesn’t appear too worried about Gurley’s ability to make an impact, evidenced by the tailback’s ability to perform in the high-pressure moments.
“He didn’t have that many touches, but he still played a good amount of snaps,” McVay said. “We just weren’t able to run it as much as we’d like to, because New Orleans did a nice job stopping us. Then, we were in some two-minute situations at the end of the game and the end of the half where you’re more inclined to throw it. He should be good.”
Gurley With Plenty of Motivation Heading into Super Bowl
In a league where quarterbacks often steal the spotlight on offense, Gurley has changed the narrative. In 2017, he finished second behind Tom Brady in MVP voting. This season, the Rams were third in the NFL in total run offense. Gurley understands fully the importance of what having a consistently productive running game can do for a team, especially in a big game like the Super Bowl.
“Everything is built around the running game,” Gurley said. “It’s a balance around both. At the end of the day, you ain’t going to stop both. Pick and choose which one you want to stop.”
The criticism from the NFC Championship Game has undoubtedly fuelled Gurley in the best possible way. The Rams will need to hope that Gurley is in fact truly 100 percent if they are going to have success on offense in the Super Bowl.
But with his ability to cause defenders fits with his bursts of speed and physicality, expect the young running back to give the Patriots defense fits on Sunday night.
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