Photo by Tony Gonzales
After a long offseason, both Raiders fans and players are excited for the team to report to training camp in Napa on Wednesday, but none may be more excited than RB Latavius Murray.
The 2014 season will be a much different year for the second-year running back. He has another year of maturity under his belt, a new number on his uniform, and most importantly, he's entering the three-week training camp healthy.
Murray played his college football at Central Florida, and after wrapping up his career as a Knight which was highlighted by 37 rushing touchdowns and his selection to the All-C-USA First Team in 2012, he decided to pursue his NFL dream.
After an impressive showing at his pro day, the Raiders selected the big back in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft (181st overall).
"It was the best day of my life," said Murray when asked to recall his draft day memories. "It started as a dream when I was a little kid, who just dreamed of going to college, and obviously to be able to have the opportunity to play in the NFL, and that becoming a reality, it was a hell of a feeling."
Murray entered training camp in 2013 excited to fulfill his NFL dream, but injuries put those plans on hold as he was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the regular season.
"It was really hard," he said, talking about missing his rookie year. "Everyone has the expectations as far as when you get brought in, especially when you're drafted. The coaches there, the organization, they expect you to contribute. They want you out there. They want to see you play, so it was hard from that point of view just due to the fact that I had to sit my first year due to an injury."
|Photo by Tony Gonzales|
Even though he wasn't able to hit the practice field with his teammates, Murray remained focused on the other aspects of the game to remain prepared for his return to competitive football.
"I just made sure that I was in tune with everything that was going on in the meeting rooms," he said. "At the same time, I stayed in the weight room as well and just tried to get better from it [the injury] so I wasn't behind when it was time to get back on the field."
Heading into 2014, Murray is ready to put his injury behind him and has approached this offseason with a renewed sense of determination to get back on the football field.
"I don't want to say this is the hardest I've worked out, because I always work hard, but I definitely think it's a little more focused this offseason with me," he said. "I think it's a little more intense for me, just being out last year and knowing how important it is for me this year to go out there and prove what I can do."
As a revamped Raiders team prepares for the 2014 campaign, the running back corps is considered to be one of the best position groups on the roster. Led by veteran Darren McFadden and the newly acquired Maurice Jones-Drew, Murray is able to learn on a daily basis from two players who have already found great success in the NFL.
"They are both two guys that have a played a great amount of football, two leaders, and two guys that on the field you definitely can see have great work ethic." He continued, "It's just about a being a pro. I'm able to learn that from each one of those guys in that room, and Marcel [Reece] as well. It's helped me grow faster in a way. Coming in as a rookie, not to say that I wasn't mature already, but you never can stop learning and that's something I'm going to continue."
The young back knows that he will have to work hard to earn his reps in a crowded Oakland backfield, but he's determined to do whatever is necessary to get on the field.
"The only thing I can do is continue to be the back that I have been, and that's just running downhill, getting tough yards in between tackles and, when I can get outside, use my speed that I'm blessed with, and anything else they ask me as far as special teams," he said.
Murray wants to do what he can to help the Raiders succeed. "I want to get better every day I go out there to practice. In the meeting rooms and on the field, do whatever it is they ask me. I have two great leaders in front of me, two great running backs in front of me to learn from and I just think that if I take it day by day and get better every day and bust my behind on special teams, I think everything will work out the way it's supposed to."
Photo by Tony Gonzales
In addition to being back at full strength, another difference for the Nedrow, N.Y., native this season will be the jersey number on the back of his uniform.
Admittedly, 2013 did not go as planned for Murray, and when the opportunity presented itself to reunite with his old number, he jumped at the chance.
"For me, last year didn't go the way I wanted it to go," he said. "It's a new year, a new season, and hopefully a new me compared to last year and not playing. That was my thought process going into it and I'm definitely extremely excited to get back in that 28."
A look at the running backs on the Raiders roster.
Murray realizes he has a long way to go to fulfill his NFL dream, but there is one moment in particular he has his eyes set on - the first time he will have the opportunity to play in front of Raider Nation in a regular season game at O.co Coliseum.
"It's going to be one to remember," he said with a noticeable tinge of excitement in his voice. "It's going to be the best feeling that I've felt in a long, long time, maybe even since I heard my name being called. I think it's definitely going to be a feeling that I never forget. I'm excited."
As excited as he is to get to that day, a day he has been looking forward to for over a year, he knows that there is still business to attend to at training camp and during the preseason. "There's a lot that I have to take care of before I get to that day, but like I said, that's been my mentality this whole offseason, to prepare for that day, and that's how I'm going to approach this camp and training camp."
This 2014 season is a year filled with expectations for the young running back, but a healthy, motivated Latavius Murray is more than ready to take on the challenge.