ATHENS, Ga. -- Count Todd Gurley among the football players who admire Chris Borland's decision to retire from the NFL.
Gurley, an NFL draft-bound Georgia running back, gave his thoughts on Borland's sudden retirement after just one season with the San Francisco 49ers. Borland, a 24-year-old standout linebacker, cited safety concerns and his long-term health as the reason behind his decision.
"It definitely was a surprise because what did he play, only one year? But everything happens for a reason,'' Gurley said. "God has a plan, and I'm pretty sure [Borland] has a plan. Big ups to him. He did what he felt was right. I definitely support him. And I think he has a bigger plan other than football. At the end of the day, it's not all about [football], but it's definitely what got us here.''
Gurley understands better than most how quickly a career can change. He continues to recover from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee back in November. He did not participate in Wednesday's pro day at Georgia but hopes to be ready for full contact in July. An ACL recovery is typically seven to 10 months, but Gurley could be ready for some drills during minicamp and possibly be back to normal by training camp.
"I'm not a therapist or anything, so I can't tell you exactly where I'm at, but I'm doing pretty well and I feel fine,'' Gurley said. "It's every day. It might sound like a cliché when guys say 'No days off' because people really take days off. You can't really afford to do that with an ACL. I'm not doing anything on the field right now. If my therapist doesn't recommend it, then I'm not doing it.''
Gurley was asked, in general terms, whether Borland's situation heightens his awareness about long-term health.
"You definitely think about it, but you try not to get too carried away with it,'' Gurley said. "You try to stay with the moment. If you're going to look down the road, you want to look two or three years. But not too far down. There's definitely crazy things happening out here.''
Gurley remembered how another top running back from the SEC, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, had his NFL career with the 49ers cut short due to two gruesome knee injuries.
"You definitely feel bad for someone who got the game that they loved and that they played their whole life taken away from them with just 10 seconds of running,'' Gurley said. "My injury was nothing compared to his. It just shows you how blessed you are to be able to play the game when a guy like [Lattimore] can't.''
Gurley said a conversation with Oakland Raiders scout Zack Crockett on Wednesday renewed his confidence about his ACL recovery. Crockett, a former NFL running back, told Gurley he suffered an ACL injury in 1996 with the Indianapolis Colts yet went on to play 10 more NFL seasons.
Had it not been for the ACL injury, Gurley might be touted as a top-10 pick. He is still expected to be selected in the first or second round.
Gurley already visited the Detroit Lions and said he got a chance to get to know general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Caldwell. Gurley has a visit lined up with the Carolina Panthers for Thursday and said he had at least five other visits scheduled. He received plenty of attention from scouts representing both the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers during Wednesday's pro day.
Before the November injury, Gurley averaged 7.4 yards per carry (123 attempts for 911 yards) and scored nine touchdowns in just six games as a junior in 2014. Gurley also returned four kickoffs for 179 yards and one touchdown in his abbreviated '14 campaign.
"As long as I have the opportunity I'll be happy to get drafted as high as possible,'' Gurley said of his draft status. "As long as I get drafted I'll be fine.''
Gurley said he hopes to receive an invitation to attend the draft, which will be April 30-May 2, in Chicago.