Life After AP: How Murray Became The X Factor In Minnesota

When the Minnesota Vikings selected Oklahoma standout running back Adrian Peterson seventh overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, he immediately captured the hearts of Vikings fans throughout the twin cities and across the country. In his first two NFL seasons, Peterson was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was awarded the NFL MVP in 2012 as well as the Offensive Player of the Year. However, Peterson’s storied career with the Vikings would come to an end. The Vikings elected to sign free agent running back Latavius Murray from the Oakland Raiders in March 2017. The next month, the Vikings parted ways with Adrian Peterson, who signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints after spending 10 seasons with the Vikings (he was later traded to the Arizona Cardinals).

Just when it looked like Murray would don the purple & gold #28 jersey left behind by Peterson, he respectfully elected to wear #25 to honor a friend and most importantly let the legacy of AP live on in Minnesota despite his saddened departure. Latavius Murray was eager to finally become an everyday starting running back in the NFL. In Oakland, Murray found himself splitting carries with guys like Darren McFadden and at one point Maurice Jones-Drew. He performed well in their absences but Murray struggled with injuries himself due to concussions and an ankle surgery in the offseason.

Vikings Running Back Latavius Murray has Minnesota soaring into the NFL Playoffs

However, it appeared the Vikings weren’t confident enough in Murray’s ability to be their top running back as they drafted highly talented Dalvin Cook out of Florida State in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Now Murray found himself competing with the rookie Cook as well as Jerick Mckinnon, who burst onto the scene late last season. When the season kicked off, Murray was 3rd on the depth chart as the rookie Cook was putting on a show and had people buzzing around the league. That all changed though as Cook suffered an ACL Tear in week 4 vs the Detroit Lions and would miss the remainder of the season. Murray would be called upon to step up for the Vikings who found themselves playing their best football. He clearly struggled at first as he averaged just 16.2 yards per game and didn’t find the endzone until week 7.

Suddenly Murray was on a hot streak. In week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens, he rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown. In week 10 against the Rams in a potential playoff preview, Murray rushed for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 24-7 Vikings win. Perhaps his best game came recently in week 17 in which he had 20 rushes for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 23-10 victory over the Bears, clinching Minnesota the #2 seed and home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs.

Like many players in the NFL, the path for Latavius Murray hasn’t been easy. He attended Onondaga High school, a small school outside of Syracuse, New York, where former Michigan running back and NFL player Mike Hart attended. Murray dreamed of playing at the next level of football but knew it wouldn’t come easy. Section 3 football which he competed tends to be overlooked especially at the small school Class D level. Many college coaches often see inflated statistics due to poor competition compared to other states with football, giving these type of players a disadvantage unless they do things that separate themselves from others like attending Division 1 college football camps and regional HS combines. Murray would capture the attention of several college coaches as he rushed for 2,030 yards and 30 touchdowns his junior year of high school. Perhaps his most remarkable season came his senior year when he tallied 2,194 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns, being named the 2007 Gatorade Football Player of the Year for New York State. He would also rack up Class D Player of the Year honors and be named 1st team All New York State.

Murray Daga
Murray (L) runs the ball for Section 3 Class D Onondaga High School

Listed as a 3 star prospect, Murray started receiving letters from Boston College, Maryland, Syracuse, Central Florida, and many others. Many people thought Murray would select Syracuse to stay close to home but he shocked them when he committed to the University of Central Florida. Murray was actually born in Titusville, Florida, before relocating to Syracuse, New York. At UCF, things for Murray didn’t start out as planned. His freshmen season he tore his ACL and was sidelined for the year, earning him a redshirt. His sophomore year he rehabbed strong and was named Conference USA MVP and Liberty Bowl MVP after rushing for 104 yards and the game winning touchdown to defeat Georgia. Murray would save his best season for last though as his senior year he was named 1st Team All-Conference USA when he rushed for 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Despite not being invited to the highly regarded NFL Combine, Murray gave his dream one last shot when Central Florida hosted an NFL Pro Day. It was here he captured the attention of NFL scouts by running a 4.38 40-yd dash and performed well in the vertical and broad jump. In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders would take a chance on Murray selecting him 181st overall in the sixth round.

Murray now finds himself content with the Minnesota Vikings, making his 2nd career NFL playoff appearance. The Vikings will host the Los Angeles Rams or the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round.

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