Father before football

Aaron Murray quickly forgot Saturday's disappointment upon hearing of dad's illness

Updated: October 10, 2012, 10:30 PM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Aaron Murray was holding a one-man pity party on Sunday morning when real life made the Georgia quarterback's football problems immediately become insignificant.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Tom Hauck/ESPN.comGeorgia QB Aaron Murray says most Bulldogs fans are loyal through tough times, such as news of his father's need for thyroid-cancer surgery.
Murray was down in the dumps after the Bulldogs' 35-7 loss at South Carolina the night before, refusing to get out of bed when his parents finally sat him down and broke news that no child wants to hear. His father, Dennis, was to undergo surgery the next day to remove his thyroid, which had developed cancer.

"My parents were calling me and I'm not picking up the phone. I didn't want to talk to anyone, didn't want to see anyone," Murray said after Wednesday's practice. "I was just laying in my bed and finally they came over and I'm still not getting out of bed. They're trying to push me, 'Aaron, get your butt up and get some food,' and I'm like, 'No, just leave me alone,' just being a little baby.

"And then finally they came in and sat down and told me and I really didn't think about football after that," Murray continued. "There's not anything about the game, not talking about the game, it's nothing on my mind about football at all. It really does put everything in perspective about what's most important in your life, who's most important in your life and putting those things first."

Murray was already depressed at that moment, having delivered one of the most disappointing performances of his career at South Carolina -- 11-for-31 for 109 yards and an interception -- and returned home to find the house he shares with several teammates had been egged and rolled with toilet paper.

But the capper was the news from his parents, which prompted him to tweet on Sunday that it had been "probably the worst 12 hours of my life, but I know my family will push through."

And the Murrays are off to a good start. Aaron and his brother Josh rushed home to Tampa, Fla., to be with his parents during his father's surgery on Monday -- and their dad's doctors believe the surgery went well.

Although Dennis, 52, has a scar all the way across his neck following the surgery, he was able to eat Monday night -- a good sign -- and was already walking around Tuesday night. He was released from the hospital Wednesday.

"It's a very treatable cancer," Murray said. "They removed the thyroid completely, so now I think he has to wait a few weeks and get a scan to make sure it didn't spread to other parts of the body. I know I'm talking like a doctor. I'm not 100 percent on all this kind of stuff. That's what I think.

"So hopefully it didn't spread. Hopefully we got it early enough that it was just in the thyroid and now that's removed, it's gone, and we're just praying that's the case."

Murray's eventful week wasn't quite over, however. On his way back to Athens on Tuesday morning, he was pulled over for speeding in Gainesville, Fla., the heart of Florida Gators country.

"I was like, 'Gosh, I just want to get back to Athens,' " Murray laughed.

Nothing is certain with his dad's recovery yet, but Murray was encouraged by the surgery's outcome -- and by the overwhelming response from Georgia's fans when they learned of his family's situation.

It was a nice reminder for the Bulldogs' quarterback only a few hours after those who vandalized his home made him feel the opposite way about some Georgia fans.

"Tons of emails, Facebook messages, Twitter messages from people. That was awesome," Murray said. "That's why I say it really is only 5 or 10 percent [who are negative] -- and usually those are the loudest ones. But usually 90, 95 percent of the fans are true Dawg fans and are going to stick with us through good times, bad times."

Murray said the ordeal provided a necessary dose of reality. While nobody wants to endure such trying personal circumstances to remember what is truly important, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said it was doubtlessly a good life lesson for his quarterback.

"There's never a good time to hear about your father having a situation like that, but it does help you get everything else in perspective -- whether it was just the game itself or what happened after the game to his home," Richt said.

"Those things seem like they're kind of bad and you might get a little bit down about that kind of thing and then when you hear the type of news you hear about his father, I think in some ways it helped him realize that, 'Hey, football's really important' -- and it is important to us and to him -- 'but it still kind of pales in comparison to the health of your father,' " he added. "So when you hear some news like that, it probably in some ways helped him get over what happened in the South Carolina and move on and be thankful."