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Murray is OU‚Äôs newest running back sensation
Scars on a man‚Äôs face are like pictographs, each telling a little story, revealing a little more about what they mean and who put them there.
DeMarco Murray‚Äôs story is about football.
Under one eye is the story of when two of his older brothers tackled him in the living room and slammed his cheekbone into a coffee table. The rear portion of his left ear is a bit jagged (no Mike Tyson joke here, although it did happened in Las Vegas, and about the same time Iron Mike began nibbling ears) because another brother ran him out of bounds into their mother‚Äôs television.
There‚Äôs another scar under the other eye ‚ÄĒ a matching set ‚ÄĒ but Murray doesn‚Äôt quite recall the story or the artist.
‚ÄúIt probably happened playing football, though,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúWe always played tackle football in the living room, so I had carpet burns everywhere. We never really broke anything. There‚Äôs been like a couple of glasses on the table, things like that. But never nothing they ever found out about.‚ÄĚ
Football continues to help define DeMarco Murray. He‚Äôs Oklahoma‚Äôs newest running back sensation, a scary-good blend of hi-def vision, quicksilver feet and straight-line speed that is making his mark ‚ÄĒ drawing his own pictograph ‚ÄĒ on an ancient wall already filled with intriguing stories.
After spending all of 2006 in redshirt with a foot injury, Murray has become one of the Sooners‚Äô many offensive weapons, a potent blend of speed, quickness, strength and innate football intellect.
‚ÄúOf course, he had a great highlight film and he was fast and he could jump,‚ÄĚ said OU running backs coach Cale Gundy. ‚ÄúAnd he was a good person. He‚Äôs the kind of player we like.‚ÄĚ
Football may best define Murray, but it was basketball that got him noticed by OU.
By now the story is famous in Sooner circles ‚ÄĒ the tale of Bob Stoops going to Las Vegas to make an in-home visit to Ryan Reynolds, who then was a senior linebacker at Bishop Gorman High School and now patrols the Sooner defense.
Stoops is on the Bishop Gorman campus, walking with then-head coach David White through the basketball gymnasium. White is reminded of the basketball team‚Äôs best player ‚Äď the same guy who also might have been the football team‚Äôs best player.
So White tells Stoops there‚Äôs something he wants him to see before he leaves. The team had gathered informally before practice, and Murray had just finished a routine slam dunk.
White walks up and says, ‚ÄúThe Oklahoma football coach, Bob Stoops, who‚Äôs visiting Ryan tonight, is right over there. How ‚Äôbout you show him that dunk you just did? Won‚Äôt hurt.‚ÄĚ
Murray, though, doesn‚Äôt want to. At first, he‚Äôs reluctant to show off. Then, after some coaxing, he wants to do another dunk.
‚ÄúHe was a little nervous at first,‚Äú said White, now a Sooner graduate assistant. ‚ÄúHe was kind of quiet. Not so much because he was afraid he‚Äôd miss it. He was just shy to do it. I said, ‚ÄėJust do it. But you can‚Äôt miss, though.‚Äô He said, ‚ÄėNo, no. If I do it, I‚Äôm not going to miss.‚Äô So he got it. He got every bit of it. It was amazing.‚ÄĚ
Asked to recount the dunk, Murray at first calls it ‚Äúa little dunk.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYeah, that‚Äôs him,‚ÄĚ White says. ‚ÄúIt was ‚Äėjust a little dunk.‚Äô But it was a dunk that not too many 6-foot-5 people could make, let alone a 6-foot guy like him. He said he could do it, but for him to do it that one time ‚ÄĒ out of 10 times, he‚Äôs probably going to dunk it maybe twice. It wasn‚Äôt your basic dunk.‚ÄĚ
Murray stands at halfcourt, throws the ball off the floor, bouncing it off the wall behind the backboard, over the backboard, off the floor again and catching it above the rim, where he‚Äôs in the middle of a 360-degree spin. He pounds the ball through the rim with one hand in a windmill motion.
‚ÄúCoach Stoops just looked at me,‚ÄĚ Murray said. ‚ÄúHe didn‚Äôt say nothing. But after that, after the next year or whenever, when he offered me (a scholarship), he told me he knew right then that he was going to offer me.‚ÄĚ
White had seen the dunk before, but was blown away.
‚ÄúI was like, ‚ÄėDude, what happens if you missed that? That‚Äôs a heck of a chance you just took,‚Äô‚ÄĚ White said. ‚ÄúBut that‚Äôs just his deal. DeMarco is one of those guys, if there‚Äôs three seconds left in the game and it‚Äôs on the line, he wants the ball. For him to do that, that‚Äôs his whole demeanor. It‚Äôs what he is ‚ÄĒ a competitor.‚ÄĚ
On The Offensive
Maybe basketball got Murray noticed. But it was football that got him to OU. And nearly got him to USC.
‚ÄúAt first, (USC) wanted me as a running back, but then they were saying cornerback,‚ÄĚ Murray said. ‚ÄúSo I was a little confused with that. I really didn‚Äôt know until I came on my visit what they wanted me for. .I just kind of figured it out. I started talking to them a little more, and I figured they wanted me as a DB. I don‚Äôt mind playing defense, but I kind of wanted to play running back, and that‚Äôs what I was feeling at the time.‚ÄĚ
As White said, that‚Äôs USC‚Äôs loss. Gundy and Stoops wanted him to play running back from day one.
Murray averaged more than 10 yards per carry as a senior at Bishop Gorman, when he ran for 1,924 yards and 27 touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 724 yards and seven TDs. True, he was a star at defensive back as well, making 64 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions his senior year ‚ÄĒ but his talent as a running back was unique.
‚ÄúYou never know what play he‚Äôs going to take to the house and score,‚ÄĚ White said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs just how he is. If something does break down in front, he‚Äôs so quick to spin out of it.
‚ÄúHe did amazing things, and he‚Äôs gotten a lot better since he got here.‚ÄĚ
One of Murray‚Äôs blockers, OU center Jon Cooper, appreciates having Murray behind him. Cooper loves Murray‚Äôs speed and athletic ability, but said his best trait may be his uncanny vision, which can make up for missed blocks up front.
‚ÄúHe can see the backside cut if the backside linebacker is over-reaching. It‚Äôs impressive,‚ÄĚ Cooper said. ‚ÄúSometimes he might try to do too much. He might see something and not see something else. Sometimes he sees it all, and you won‚Äôt see it until you watch film. The coaches might be like, ‚ÄėWell, why you doing that?‚Äô And he‚Äôs like, ‚ÄėWell, he was coming over here.‚Äô You‚Äôre like, ‚ÄôWow, I didn‚Äôt even see that.‚Äô
Then the next day on film you‚Äôre like, ‚ÄėSure enough. He was going over there.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Murray averaged 11.3 yards per play in OU‚Äôs three spring scrimmages. He did it again in a fall scrimmage, going for 109 yards on nine carries. In the Sooners‚Äô season-opener against North Texas, Murray took his third collegiate handoff 44 yards for an end-around touchdown. He finished the day with five touchdowns and 100 all-purpose yards. Two weeks later, he ran for exactly 100 yards on just four carries, which included a 92-yard TD run, the third-longest in school history.
Then in OU's 28-21 win over Texas, Murray broke loose for 128 yards that included a 65-yard TD run.
‚ÄúHe definitely has a chance,‚ÄĚ Gundy said, ‚Äúto be a cut above.‚ÄĚ
Sounds like another pictograph waiting to happen.
Editor's Note: This story appears in the latest issue of Sooner Spectator, on sale at newsstands now. To subscribe, call toll free 1-888-335-4385.