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I’m setting the recorder up while prepping him on how the interview will take place. He is very respectful but one of the most coolest and mild tempered guys I’ve come across. Yet, he’s excited about the opportunity to tell his journey and story.
Najee Murray was born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio. The Kent State alumni is the oldest out of three children who was raised by their mother and stepfather. Growing up, it was an everyday task to play football and compete with friends outside their home. Although they played just to have fun, it started to become natural for Murray. “Our town is known for football. That’s all we really have to look forward to so it built that foundation from there,” said Murray
It became more serious to Murray after going into a camp his sophomore year in high school. “I went to a camp just for fun and I ended up coming out of it as Defensive Back MVP,” says Murray, “That’s when I started to gain a little interest.”
The former Kent State defensive back displays quickness with the ability to run with receivers. “My physicality is what I could bring to a team and I’m able to run with slot receivers.” Murray frustrates quarterbacks due to the fact that he’s able to run step for step and still be able to turn his head around, not lose ground and still make the play.
“Our town is known for football. That’s all we really have to look forward to so it built that foundation there”
Murray’s knack for the ball is not by accident. His high football IQ gives him the advantage of reading the play before it develops. His underrated speed coupled with his arm bar while watching the quarterback separates him from most defensive backs. “My position coach from Kent State really developed me a lot from my junior year to my senior year.”
The Steubenville native current favorite player is Tyrann Mathieu, safety for the Arizona Cardinals. “Because of his size, he doesn’t let anyone stop him and he can play with the caliber of talent he faces and he’s a playmaker.” Murray is 5’9″ 180 pounds whereas Mathieu is 5’9″ 186 pounds. Murray is often to compared to the Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. Murray appreciates the compliment but he compares himself to another player. “I think I’m a combination of a Tyrann Mathieu and Brent Grimes.”
In high school, he continued to make strides and started getting national attention at safety. Not only was he great on defense, he played on the offensive side as well. “I was basically an athlete on offensive. I played receiver, running back, the wild cat and all.”
After being highly sought after from colleges, he was recruited by the Ohio State Buckeyes. He started making noise early on competing with the first and second teams in practice. Starting out on special teams, Murray tore his ACL in practice after appearing in the sixth game of the season. “Just being injured itself, you have to learn to overcome mental challenges just because you feel like you’re not a part of the team,” said Murray.
“I think I’m a combination of a Tyrann Mathieu and Brent Grimes.”
Murray transfered to Kent State University but the transfer wasn’t as smooth as most thought it would be. “Just that transition alone coming from a top premier school going to a low premier school was hard in itself.” It took a little more than a year for Murray to adjust to the new environment and once he did, great things started to happen. “I started accepting things for what it was. It was just a certain point in my life where I was like you gotta grow up and you got to get over things,” mentioned Murray, “Once I started to change my mindset and except it, I started to enjoy my time as a Golden Flash.“
One person who was there to stand with him in the midst of adversity was Murray’s mother. She was there to support the transferred defensive back when he had no one else to turn to. “My mom didn’t give up on me and always kept me on the right track and always kept me leveled headed.” Another significant person who helped Murray’s transition to Kent State a smooth one was his position coach Hank Poteat, former NFL defensive back (Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns). Poteat and Murray connected right away and Murray was able to learn from him and carry that onto field for success.
In his junior year, that’s when he finally was able to gather his legs under him and started to take off. Murray remembers his first game in 2015 where he knew he belonged in college football. “Illinois was the game where I was able to play against higher competition and I played well.” From there on, he was able to prove doubters wrong and show that he could play against anyone on any stage.
“I started accepting things for what it was. It was just a certain point in my life where I was like you gotta grow up and you got to get over things,”
Murray was named to the All-Mac First Team in 2016. He ranked 9th in the nation in passes defended and gained notoriety over the country. The 5’9″ cornerback received an invitation to the Tropical Bowl in Daytona, Florida. While down in Daytona, he had multiple NFL scouts watching his practice drills and following his every move. One NFL scout was quoted saying “He’s the reason why I’m here [at the Tropical Bowl].” Murray Pro Day will be on March 24th.
Every since a young child, football came easy to Murray and he’s made the most out of it. Dealing with the adversity on the way to stardom, the NFL prospect understands that being in uncomfortable predicaments will only make him comfortable overcoming trials and difficult times, whether football or life. As for football, Murray has only one goal. “I want to be the best defensive back there is.”