As a child Latavius Murray was a big fan of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, but as he got into middle and high school, one of his role models ended up living in the same town, and played the same position.
Onondaga alum Latavius Murray watched fellow Tiger Mike Hart dominate Section III football, then move on to play Division I football at Michigan and finally end up getting drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008. It was a path Murray wanted to follow, especially being from such a small school in Central New York like Onondaga Central.
"I learned a lot just watching him when I was in high school, knowing when I got the chance I could one day be the starting running back at Onondaga, and watching him at Michigan and knowing I'd have my chance to play at the college level, and then him even playing in the NFL, he's been a big mentor for me, and I still talk to him almost every week, he's just a great guy to have around, a great guy to learn from," Murray, who ended up running for more than 2,000 yards in high school, says.
And Murray has followed Hart almost step for step. After Onondaga, Murray attended the University of Central Florida, rushing for 1106 yards and 15 touchdowns in his senior season. This past weekend, Murray was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 6th round of the NFL draft.
While they still have a good relationship, the latest accomplishment for Murray displayed the competition between the two. Murray joked about being picked 20 spots earlier than Hart in the draft (Hart was picked 201st, Murray 181st). Regardless of where they were picked, and considering the size of a district like Onondaga Central, having two NFL running backs from the same area in Central New York gives Murray a great sense of pride, and will remain a big part of who he is even in the NFL.
"It means a lot," Murray says. "I like the fact that I came from a small school in Onondaga, you know everybody in the school, everybody's name, compared to going to college...people going to big high schools and big football programs...it's just good to represent where I come from and I never forget that and I make sure to let people know that I came from Onondaga."
So, Murray watched the NFL draft at home with his family, which turned into a moment he will never forget.
"As soon as my name popped up, my phone just started ringing," Murray says. "My mom, she cried for like an hour straight I think, it was great to put a smile on her face and just having everybody there excited."
He will take what he learned from watching Fred Taylor from afar and Mike Hart up close to the NFL, but he won't just use those mental cues to be successful, and it was his physical presence which attracted him to NFL franchises. Compared to Hart, Murray is taller and faster. Hart's success came from his shiftiness and and quick cuts. Murray, on the other hand, is more of a one cut and go back, which is similar to current Oakland Raider running back Darren McFadden.
"I think they definitely have a plan for me, I'm excited to see how it all unfolds, the fact that I was the only running back they did pick in the draft makes me think I've got a good situation going out there," Murray says.
He added that he looks forward to learning from McFadden in the early days of his NFL career.
He will head out to Oakland this week, and starts his rookie minicamp on May 11th.