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Latavius Murray: AFC-Leading Rusher

Is there anyone around the NFL quietly having a successful season as quietly as running back Latavius Murray?

If there is, you'd be hard-pressed to find him.

Heading into Week 14 of the regular season, Murray leads the AFC in rushing, and is ranked fourth in the NFL with 851 yards on the  ground, and the way that he's gone about it has been in tandem with his personality  soft - spoken, unassuming and without a lot of fanfare.

The only players who have rushed for more yards than the Raiders third-year back? Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Jonathan Stewart, players who are considered among the upper echelon of backs in the NFL.

"It's almost surreal," said Murray. "Just to see my name around guys like that – guys I've seen play since before I've been in the league and even in high school, it's just really cool. It's very humbling to me."

It's been quite a year for the Nedrow, NY-native, who started just three games last season and spent most of the year buried behind veteran running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew on the Raiders depth chart.

Now, he's the Raiders leading rusher and part of a young offensive nucleus that is scoring nearly 24 points per game.

"It's definitely different, I'm not the oldest [in the room], but we're all young in there," Murray said. "I love the room and any way I can help any of the guys, obviously, but it's a big difference not having a true, older vet in front of me anymore like it was in the past."

It's a change that's been a welcome one for Murray, who has slowly but surely began to embrace his new leadership position.

"I like it," Murray said. "I guess that means, for one, I'm doing something right. I'm in a good position, but either way, it doesn't matter to me. If I can take something from guys I will, older, younger, and if I can give somebody some piece of advice, I don't mind that."

In his career, the Central Florida-product has surpassed the 100-yard mark three times, and in those games, the Silver and Black are 3-0.

So outside of the obvious increase in touches, what has been different for Murray this year compared to season's past?

"I think this year, even in the offseason, and now going forward, I can just think," Murray said. "Last year, just jumping right in, I maybe wasn't as comfortable as I am now. Just getting comfortable with the group of guys that I'm running, and playing with. We began to form a rapport, so it's helped me tremendously."

His growth and comfort have been evident to teammates, including guard Gabe Jackson, who has started in each of the 15 games Murray has been the featured running back.

"He's gotten better," Jackson said. "I've seen growth in him. As time has gone on, he's gotten better at understanding the scheme of things."

Jackson is correct in mentioning Murray's growth throughout the season, for the road has had a few bumps for both No. 28 and the Silver and Black. You'd be remiss not to mention Murray's four fumbles, according to Pro Football Reference, but the fact remains that he's been an integral part in keeping the Raiders offense humming this year. In fact, a few hiccups aren't uncommon from players carrying loads similar to Murray's -- Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Indianapolis' Frank Gore, and San Diego's Melvin Gordon all lead their team's rushing attacks and have put the ball on the ground as much or *more *than Murray -- the key is continuing to move the ball forward effectively with the opportunities given. And Murray has proven his ability to consistently do just that.

Now, with four games left on the schedule, Murray is on pace to becoming the Raiders first 1,000-yard rusher since Darren McFadden in 2010, and even in today's offensive-heavy game, it's a number that would be very validating for Murray to hit.

"It would definitely be a nice benchmark for any running back, once you pass 1,000 yards," Murray explained. "It's a good thing, and it's not easy to do, especially at this level. I'm definitely hoping to get it. The main thing for me though is what's most important, [and that is] I stay healthy."

Murray's arrival at 1,000-yard marker would no doubt be a highlight in the running back's young career, but it's an accomplishment that the entire offense would take pride in.

"[It would] mean a lot," Jackson said. "It's a compliment to the offensive line and the running back. We work hand in hand."

Heading into Denver, Murray needs 149 yards to reach 1,000, but for now, Murray's intent on just quietly going about his business, just like he has all season.

"The position I'm in is phenomenal, and it feels great, but I know that there's still a lot out there for me," Murray said. "There's still a lot of areas for improvement for me that I can get better at and hopefully even take this year to another level."

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