November 24, 2010

One thankful Dawg

As one of 23 Bulldogs who will be stepping on the sacred sod of Sanford Stadium for the final time in their football careers, senior Kris Durham has a lot to be thankful for.

For the Calhoun native, simply having the opportunity to put on the red and black was the culmination of a dream.

It just wasn't the only one.

Having already received his Bachelors in Physical Education, Durham's already working towards his Masters in Middle School and Secondary Education.

But as he begins to look past Saturday's finale against arch-rival Georgia Tech, the lanky wide receiver has one more goal he wants to try and achieve - a career in the NFL.

"I graduated in May, but I have not finished up grad school yet. I'm going to pursue a professional career and when that is over come back and finish grad school," Durham said. "That's something my parents always preached, finish that education and I've always wanted my Masters. My goal wasn't just to get a Bachelors, I wanted to get that Masters, so that's what I'll shoot for after my playing days."

Don't laugh.

At 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds, Durham has caught 26 passes for 522 yards and two touchdowns, including two games of over 100-yards.

In the four games A.J. Green missed while serving his four-game suspension, Durham led the Bulldogs in receiving three times.

"I always believed that I had the ability but the opportunities that I've been given it's really helped convince me that I do have a future in football," Durham said. "I'm going to give it everything I've got and see how it works out. If it doesn't work out the way I want it to, then I've still got a lot of goals and aspirations in my life. Teaching, coaching, that's one of them so I'll still be a successful person in my eyes."

Count head coach Mark Richt among those who believes Durham will have an opportunity to succeed on the game's highest level.

" "I think he can. I think a lot of the scouts have taken notice. They like what they see. Of course earlier in the year he had a little bigger role, in that when A.J. wasn't there, he kind of became the go-to guy and responded well and made a lot of plays. They like his range and like the fact that he's tall and can make plays," Richt said. "He's never had trouble getting by people. He's never had trouble getting open deep. As Aaron was kind of feeling his way around, Durham was running by people and Aaron was getting it to him, but if he could have it to him on the dead run a couple of times, who knows how many touchdown passes he would have. I think Kris has an excellent opportunity."

Durham wasn't thinking NFL after injuring his shoulder prior to the 2009 campaign.

Out for the year, Durham was able to focus totally on his academics, earning his degree last May before enrolling in Georgia's graduate program the following semester.

Last spring, Durham took a turn student teaching at Oconee County Middle School.

It won't be his last teaching job.

Once his playing days are officially over, Durham figures he'll start teaching and coaching fulltime.

"Most people say they don't like Middle School because of the age group but I really enjoy it," Durham said. "High School, it's a little more straightforward, you know what you're going to get but in Middle School, you don't know what you're going to get day in and day out, but I kind of like that."

Having a year away from the game also gave him time to think.

"That (the year off) kind of put my goals more to the forefront. Once I got hurt, I thought to myself, well, now I'm going to have a chance to graduate and start working on that Masters," he said. "It just showed me that with football, you don't need to take it for granted, you've got to have other goals and things in your mind to be successful, so actually that (the injury) was a blessing in disguise."

One more goal remains - beat Georgia Tech.

Durham wasn't able to be a part of last year's celebration while still recovering from his injured shoulder. He missed the 2008 game in Athens while nursing a broken hand, but the pain of watching Yellow Jacket players celebrate a victory hurt much worse.

"That sticks out more than anything. I wasn't able to play last year and even two years ago I wasn't able to play but that was still my junior season," Durham said. "I broke my hand two years ago today and wasn't able to play. But it's something you can still see, you can look it up online, it's very vivid in our mind just as I'm sure some of our pictures are vivid in their mind."

He hopes to make the most of his final opportunity.

"It's important because it is the next game and it's important because it is Georgia Tech," Durham said. "We're not focused on the bowl game thing, we're focused on Georgia Tech because that's the rival and that's the one we have to live with the rest of the year. As a senior, we don't get another shot."

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