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Good to see former OU star Murray
Back as team's new running backs coach
DeMarco Murray, 32 years old but looking 22, sat next to Lincoln Riley at the press conference announcing Murray and Jamar Cain as Oklahoma's new football assistants.
Murray has more of a beard than he did when he played for the Sooners in 2007-10. There's not a speck of gray, though. His biceps still bulge beneath his shirt.
He absolutely looks like he could still leap over teammates like he did tight end Joe Jon Finley to launch a 65-yard touchdown run against Texas.
He looks like he could still take a kickoff from one side of Owen Field to the other before heading straight for the end zone like he did against Baylor.
He looks like he could still pirouette down a sideline before somersaulting into the end zone like he did against Tulsa.
That made Murray's Feb. 12 introduction a reintroduction. It made the day comforting for someone like me, who didn't just watch Murray score more touchdowns and gain more all-purpose yards than anyone in OU history, but got to talk to him about it and then write about him.
Maybe it's that I’m past 50 now and on the back end of my career, with one child starting her own career and another past the halfway point of college. It's OK to be wistful at my point, or our point if any 50-something readers are following along.
I didn't feel guilty when it came time for my question at the press conference, and before I asked I told Murray: "Good to see you again." A journalist steps out of character when he or she makes something personal, but there are exceptions. This felt like one of them.
I didn't feel guilty when I caught Murray off to the side after the press conference, shook his hand and asked how he was doing, asked who from those late 2000s teams he kept up with. It was reassuring that he recognized me straight away -- I've changed a lot more than he has over 10 years -- and that we could still converse.
Murray was the type of young fella reporters could chat with after practice. It never got deep, but his answers still felt more a part of a conversation than a Q and A session. The most mature, most at ease players handle the media so. Murray certainly qualified.
His coaches noticed and went out of their way to praise his character as much as his ball-carrying. His teammates noticed as well.
Tress Way felt pretty awful about missing a long last-second field goal attempt in the '09 opener against BYU. When he came to the interview room the week after, he shared some insight into what helped him cope.
"What really made the night for me was DeMarco came up to me on the sideline and he said to me, 'The only way he could feel worse about the game is if he saw me putting it on myself, that I lost the game,'" said Way.
I thought of that anecdote Feb. 12 as Murray fielded questions about his relative lack of coaching experience, his only year on the job being at Arizona last season, and whether he had the chops to kill it on the recruiting trail.
Seemed if a 22-year-old young man had it in him to comfort a teammate, never mind all the 22-year-old had in him to make his mark as a Sooner and then as a Dallas Cowboy, he would work out just fine as one of Riley's assistants.
"I've always been a coach in the room," Murray said at the press conference.
"Even here with the depth that we had with Adrian (Peterson), Chris Brown, Mose (Mossis Madu) and all those guys... When I went to Dallas, same thing. I've always kind of been that guy. I've been a cerebral guy."
Even if he finds year two in Norman to be more challenging than year one in Tucson, Murray still has a heck of a fallback in Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. OU's returning leading rushers could make any coach look good.
He has a heck of a fallback in Riley and the envy-of-football offensive system in place.
I've got to believe Murray will succeed, just as former Sooner Calvin Thibodeaux has succeeded as OU's defensive line coach the past four years. Or as former Sooner Josh Heupel did succeed, at least initially, as OU's quarterbacks coach before Riley arrived.
I'll be pulling for Murray to do just that. It was neat seeing Thibodeaux and Heupel return, but that was more cursory. I wasn't as familiar with those two like I was with Murray. I wasn't on the OU beat when Heupel quarterbacked, and while I covered Thibodeaux as a defensive end, he didn't interview nearly as often as Murray.
This return feels more like an extension. That has to do with the player-turned-coach, and it has to do with me.
I have aged those 10 years with Murray, even if he wears it better. I'm on the back end of things, even as he is still just getting started.
I feel different. I like comfort a lot more.
Murray back with the Sooners? That’s comfortable.
(Editor's Note: This column appears in Sooner Spectator's 2020 Recruiting Issue! To read more or subscribe - call 405-364-4515)