Murray working on his craft
You see it more often than not when former stars attempt to get into coaching. For whatever reason, there’s just a disconnect.
Sometimes when you were that good, it’s hard to understand how others can’t do what you did. There’s a bevy of reasons as to why former stars don’t make good coaches, but it sure doesn’t feel like any will apply to DeMarco Murray.
One year of coaching in the books, and now we’re about to find out exactly what Murray can do. The former Oklahoma running back is, of course, coming back home after being hired by the Sooners to coach the running back room last month.
“When we sat down and interviewed DeMarco I went into it saying, ‘Look, I’m interviewing like this is some guy I’ve never seen play ball.’ I have no idea where he went to college,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “I just want to see what the coach is about.
“It’s like with really good players. A lot of times you can see it right away. You just know. Like there’s no doubt. You can tell that with him as a coach. From second one you could tell he was well beyond his years.”
Murray was a standout at OU from 2007-10 before an accomplished NFL career and deciding to retire a lot earlier than most would have thought.
To be 30 years old (now 32) and know you’ve already reached the second act of your career could be tough, but Murray took it in stride. He thrived one year as a broadcast analyst before coaching running backs at Arizona for the 2019 season.
There’s no question the goal when he went to Tucson wasn’t to end up in Norman the next season. However, that’s the way it has worked out and all sides are happy with the results.
“It was definitely a dream of mine, obviously, ending up back here and be at this prestigious program and place where it started for me and I consider it home,” Murray said. “Even though I'm from Las Vegas, but this is a place that helped jump-start me professionally on-and-off the field.
“So just the people in the organization and having the chance to come back here and obviously learn and help and compete for a lot of championships and I was very privileged to have that opportunity.”
It’s easily a feel-good story, but it has to be more than that. OU will likely be losing three running backs following the 2020 season. And the Murray name might get him in the door with recruits, but he’s going to have to be able to land and close the deal with the top names.
This couldn’t be a lazy hire by Riley. Couldn’t be just let’s find a familiar name to OU fans and they’ll get excited.
It’s early, but it’s easy to see why this move should work. It starts with Murray and his always learning something mindset.
“Whether it's offensively, defensively, special times wise—I pride myself in watching everyone and learning good, bad, ugly, whatever the case may be, there is always something you can take from it,” Murray said. “I've never not had hunger to be a professional and be the best that I can be. My whole thing when I was a player, I never wanted the offensive coordinator, I never wanted the head coach to worry about my position.
“I took it upon myself to obviously be the vocal leader when I needed to be but be that leader to set by example. That's the same approach now. I don't want Lincoln, I don't want Bill, I don't want anyone having to worry about the running back group.”
It’s something Riley said he recognized. Not every star player can be a coach or wants to be a coach, but Murray’s a different breed with his approach.
Things that cause hiccups along the way with most don’t appear to be an issue with Murray.
“I think a lot of players think they know what coaching is about,” Riley said. “They maybe weren’t as perceptive when they were players and maybe didn’t pick up on as much as they thought they did, and they get on the other side of it and it’s totally different.
“I think DeMarco is one of those guys that took a lot from every single experience. It certainly appears that way. He’s been a quick riser. It was really kind of a no-brainer.”
When you’re able to push your pride to the side and admit you don’t know it all, there is a lot of things you can accomplish.
That can be easier said than done when everything you’ve ever attempted to do, you’ve been incredibly successful. But Murray is showing there’s always more out there.
“I have no problem learning from others. I don't know everything,” Murray said. “I don't believe I'm the smartest guy in the room and the biggest thing is, like I've said, I've always paid attention to everyone. Not just offensively — the offensive line coach — I'll pay attention to the DBs coach, the special teams coach just to learn and get advice from them and learn.
“I believe you can learn from anyone — good, bad, ugly. I've always had that mindset and I've always, since I was here, I've always been a coach in the room… I've been a cerebral guy because I've known not just the running back position but what the offensive line is doing, what the tight ends are doing. I prided myself on knowing the entire offensive system, not just my job.”
You talk about learning and observing, well, Murray clearly been learning the ways of the eyeball emoji that has been made so popular with Riley whenever the Sooners land a recruit.
Riley told the story that even Murray wasn’t aware of regarding Murray and OU assistant Cale Gundy.
“After word broke that we were going to be looking for a new running backs coach, I was actually in Dallas recruiting with Coach Gundy and he showed me his phone and DeMarco sent him a text with the eyeballs,” Riley said. “That was a good recruit for us.”
The first of many memorable moments with Murray as running backs coach, OU fans are definitely hoping to see.