By Paul Newberry
The Associated Press
ATHENS, Ga. — Not so long ago they were raw freshmen, both wearing red and black, battling each other for the same prize.
Starting quarterback of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Of course, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger wound up taking different paths.
Murray guided Georgia back to national prominence and became the most prolific passer in school history. Mettenberger ran into legal troubles, left Athens in disgrace, and wound up as the starter for Southeastern Conference rival LSU.
On Saturday, these former teammates will go against each other for the first time when No. 9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC) hosts the No. 6 Tigers (4-0, 1-0) in a crucial SEC contest.
“It’s going to be weird to see him on the other sideline wearing an LSU uniform,” Murray said.
The game is especially significant for Mettenberger, considering he grew up not far from Athens dreaming of playing for the Bulldogs, only to get kicked off the team after he pleaded guilty to sexual battery for an incident at a bar.
His mother, Tammy, still works in football operations at Georgia.
“He’s going to be crazy hyped for this game,” Bulldogs linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “He’s going to come in with a mission.”
Actually, Mettenberger can’t wait for it to be over. He’s worried about what his mom his going through, though Georgia coach Mark Richt made things easier by giving her the week off.
“There’s just so much put into this game that has nothing with the game,” Mettenberger said.
Murray remembers battling with Mettenberger when both were contending for the starting job during spring practice in 2010.
“There were fireworks every day at practice,” Murray said. “He’d go out and make a throw, I’d go out and make a throw. It was back and forth, back and forth. It really pushed both of us to become better quarterbacks.”
No matter what, one of them was probably destined to play elsewhere.
“You could be talking to him right now,” Murray told a group of Georgia reporters this week. “I doubt both of us would’ve stayed.”