Here's How We Got To DeMarco Murray Being The Best Running Back In The NFL

If you would've asked me seven years ago if DeMarco Murray was capable of being one of the best running backs in football, I wouldn't have hesitated in saying, "Absolutely."

Seven years ago, Murray was a redshirt freshman for the Oklahoma Sooners, and the whispers in Norman were that he could be the next in line to carry on the historical greatness of running backs to play at OU. I'd heard the whispers emanating from Norman, and I did what any red-blooded American with a healthy dose of fandom for his or her favorite college football team would do ... I went to YouTube and looked up the DeMarco Murray high school mixtape. Sure, all five-star running backs coming out of high school have phenomenal-looking highlight reels, so I took it with a grain of salt. Then I became a witness to Murray's 2007 freshman year campaign at OU.

If you look at the video above and watch specifically at the 1:30 mark, that's exactly when I knew DeMarco Murray would be a great tailback.

That hurdle.

That breakaway speed.

Dear God, thank you for making #7 an Oklahoma Sooner.

What transpired in four years (2007-10) of DeMarco Murray's tenure in Norman, Oklahoma, was one of the most emotionally gratifying and grueling experiences I've ever partaken in. While many remember running backs like Darren McFadden, Shonn Greene, Toby Gerhart and LaMichael James reigning supreme during that time, I always believed DeMarco Murray was better ... when healthy. That disclaimer is an important one, because Murray was saddled with multiple injuries while trying to carry the offensive load for head coach Bob Stoops. Murray was carrying the rock, catching the ball out the backfield and bringing back kick returns. He was good enough to do all of it, but with the amount of talent OU had on that roster, he had no business doing all of that work for free.

By the time Murray's career was over in Norman, I viewed his NFL prospects as nothing more than a third-down back who could occasionally carry the ball when a team was in a pinch. It's not that he lacked the talent to be an every-down back, but I thought Murray was brittle and Stoops seemed dead set on throwing Murray the ball out on the flanks versus giving him the ball to run in between the tackles.


When the Dallas Cowboys drafted DeMarco Murray in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, I immediately called up one of the few Cowboys fans I can tolerate talking to on a regular basis. I called fellow OU fan and editor-at-large of this here site, Kenny. Although I selfishly hated the fact that Murray went to the Cowboys, I knew that this was absolutely the best situation for the second-best OU running back in the 21st century history of the Sooners. Kenny agreed, as his stance was that if expectations were kept low, then everyone would benefit in the long run. Murray would be paired with Felix Jones to form a dynamic duo in the Cowboys backfield, and with Tony Romo at quarterback and a nice array of talent at the skill positions, Murray would be able to flourish as an integral cog in a dynamic offense versus being asked to be the entire engine by himself.

Then 253 happened.

What's crazy about Murray breaking Emmitt Smith's record is that he wasn't even 100% healthy as a nagging hamstring injury from his Oklahoma days flared up during the game. What's more crazy is that Dallas acted like it didn't know about Murray's injury woes and quickly released its third-string tailback following Murray's breakout. Murray would flourish in the games following the record-breaking performance, but by week 14 his injury woes would catch up with him yet again. A fractured ankle and a high ankle sprain ended Murray's rookie campaign, and realistically, it ended the Cowboys' hopes of making the playoffs that season.

In fact, in the next two seasons, it seemed like the only thing that could really stop DeMarco Murray were his constant injuries and the Cowboys' inability to use him on a consistent basis. In 2012 (sprained foot) and 2013 (sprained MCL), Murray would again catch the injury bug while still flashing the natural brilliance he's always had. Not just Cowboys fans, but fans of football want to see Murray tote the rock, yet the offense he's played in seems unwilling to let him do so. The Cowboys have been enamored with throwing the ball all around the lot. Murray's chances to shine brightest were now being derailed not only by injuries, but also from sheer ineptitude of those working above him.


Through four games in 2014, DeMarco Murray is leading the league in rushing, and it's not even close. Murray is currently on pace to break Eric Dickerson's single-season record for rushing yards with 2,136 versus E.D.'s infamous 2,105. Of course, asking DeMarco Murray to play 16 games in a season might as well be like asking Dr. Dre to finish his Detox album. I'm not saying it's not going to happen, but don't hold your breath. Maybe that's harsh on Murray, but in the seven-plus seasons he's played college and pro football, he's only had one season (senior year at OU) in which he played in all the games.

Durability in this present age of the NFL might be the hardest commodity to uphold for any player and team. (Hell, we just saw the Atlanta Falcons play a tight end at right tackle because they simply ran out of healthy offensive lineman.) Moreover, with the NFL now dealing with the chaos that is its inability to deal with a player's personal conduct and how that affects the league's image, the state of the league has never been more in flux. Adrian Peterson's at the house chilling, LeSean McCoy might not be the best back on his own team and Jamaal Charles is forever questionable on his team's injury report.

As of today, DeMarco Murray's the best running back in the NFL, and it's not even close. With the Dallas Cowboys implausibly forming the best run-blocking offensive line in the league, and a coaching staff having its hand forced by the quarterback's bad back and inconsistent play, DeMarco Murray will be afforded every single chance his body allows him to flourish as the league's preeminent talent at the running back position.

It's a talent that's been there since he stepped on OU's campus in 2006, and it's a talent that's in full bloom now in Dallas.

Enjoy it while it lasts, people, because unfortunately, I'm sure it won't last that long.

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