December 17, 2008

Mulling his decision

Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford sat surrounded by an army of local reporters and they didn't want to know what he wanted to ride at Disney World during the Bulldogs trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl.

Hardly:

Will he stay or will he go? That continues to be the most-asked question of the junior from Dallas, Tex., not only by inquiring media types anxious for a scoop, but classmates and fans of the Bulldogs as well.

"Mostly everyone is asking me to stick around, but I hear it every day. I get used to it," Stafford said. "I just smile and say OK."

The crowd at Saturday night's Gala at the Classic Center also voided their feelings.

"Every time I walked down on stage, both me and Knowshon, it was like 'One more year, one more year,'" Stafford said. "I was like going 'Wow.' They've got the right to say what they want."

As for the question everyone in the Dawg Nation is dying to hear, Stafford hinted that he's getting closer to making a decision, but insisted that there's still a ways to go.

"Maybe, I don't know, maybe," Stafford said. "This is my first time doing this believe it or not. I still have to take it all in and have that gut feeling and see what I'm going to do but I don't have that feeling yet. I've still got to look at all my options and see what it's going to be like at the end of the day."

Stafford and all underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to decide if he wants to enter the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford, Moreno, and several of Georgia's underclassmen recently submitted their papers to the NFL's advisory board to see where scouts predict where they will go.

Most experts agree that Stafford is a likely Top 5 selection and could be picked No. 1. Winless Detroit will get the first pick and could well be looking for a quarterback.

"I encourage them to get as much information from the NFL as they possibly can and to try and get as much unbiased information as they can," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. "They need to try and talk to guy who have been through this before. They need to talk to them about their decision to go, talk about their decision to stay and ask what would they do different? But the most important thing to do is just do what's in their heart. Do what their heart says for them to do."

Stafford said that's what he's doing.

Kansas City scout Mike Hagen is a friend of Stafford, who also has spent time with Peyton and Eli Manning at the Manning Passing Academy.

Stafford (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) said he has not yet sat down with Richt to discuss his future and possible entry into the NFL.

It's a step and decision he concedes is a lot different than choosing a college.

"Absolutely. They (colleges) kind of pick you and in the NFL you don't get to pick where you're going. It's just a whole different step. It's the real world. It's business. In college it's a whole lot of fun. There are really not too many worries," Stafford said. "You get out there (the NFL) and there's a whole lot of stuff going on. But at the same time it's a dream that could possibly come true and that kind of thing so that's what makes it tough. It's not black and white. You just don't know and that's what makes it tough. There are just so many factors."

Stafford, who has completed 215-of-353 passes for 3,209 yards and 22 touchdowns, did say he believes he's ready for the mental challenge that the NFL will present.

"I don't think it scares me. I'm just saying that it's different from being recruited to a college. You're recruited to a college they're going to make sure you're this, make sure you're doing that," Stafford said. "You go out into the real world and it's just different. It's something either this year or next year that I could adapt to relatively easily. I think I'm pretty mature for my age and if I had to I could do it."

Stafford was later asked if the success of Atlanta Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan would play a role in his decision.

Although Ryan stayed all four years at Boston College, his ability to jump right in and lead the surprise Falcons into playoff contention has not been lost on the Georgia QB.

"The season he's having is pretty ridiculous. I mean, Peyton Manning came in his first year and was awful. I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it. Troy Aikman is another guy who was a great quarterback that had an awful first year so what Ryan has done is unbelievable," Stafford said. "Ben Roethlisberger, with what he did, he kind of had a similar situation where his team could really run the football, but Matt's put the Falcons on his shoulders a couple of times and made plays to win games."

Stafford said he's never met Ryan. But he'd like to.

"Drew Butler lives in kind of the same area as he does and Butler said that somebody said that Matt Ryan wants to play some golf," Stafford said. "If you want to play some golf, Matt hit me up. I'll play Sugarloaf, whenever."

Stafford did admit, though, the fact that he has not yet led Georgia to an SEC Championship does weigh on his mind.

So is there unfinished business?

"There might be. I don't know yet. I've got to sit down and really hash things out and look at what the plan is," he said. "But I'm sure that's something to think about."



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