I had the opportunity to talk to Central Florida running back Latavius Murray, the imposing physical specimen of a running back who can run, catch out of the backfield, and block.
We discussed his notable career in Orlando as well as his feelings about what he can bring to an NFL team and his approach to the Draft.
Peter Smith: You grew up by Syracuse and were recruited by them as well as Connecticut, Boston College, and Maryland, so why did you end up at Central Florida?
Latavius Murray: At that time in high school, I had been growing up in New York and living there all my life. I just kinda wanted to get away and go somewhere and be around something different.
PS: It could’t have hurt that bad that it was in Orlando?
LM: Not at all. Couldn’t hurt that bad. The weather, all that helps.
PS: Even though you’re not near the New York City area, New York does not get all that much publicity for high school football, so was football your first love or did play something else before you got into football?
LM: I always loved playing basketball growing up just because it was easier to go pick up a ball and go out and shoot. As I got a little older and seeing my friends playing football and seeing that’s what they were doing other than playing basketball, I kinda got involved. My dad liked the sport of football and he played as well when he was younger. It wasn’t hard to get in there and do something and be active. I didn’t want to sit around. I figured it was a way to do something physical.
PS: What did your impact and the win against Georgia in that bowl game your redshirt sophomore year mean to you? And does it mean more to you now than it did at the time?
LM: I think it being the first bowl game that we ever won, the first bowl game in UCF’s history. Just to be a part of that alone is special, something to remember. My time being here at UCF and being a part of that game, playing, starting, and making plays in that game like that winning touchdown is definitely something I will remember. Even just thinking back on it, that’s a memory that won’t ever go away. That’s me making history and having a mark here at UCF.
PS: You’ve had 44 touchdowns in your career. Was the go ahead touchdown against Georgia the biggest one of your career for you?
LM: I think it is. You know it’s as good as a lot of other touchdowns. I can remember the excitement still to this day when I crossed the end zone. It was just a I don’t even know how to explain that feeling but it was big.
PS: With the game against Georgia and another big game against SMU, what were your expectations going into your junior year?
LM: My expectations were just to pick up where I left off; to make the most of my opportunities and just try to play the way I know how to play, do what I know how to do when I get out on the field. Just try to help the team out when I’m in as much as possible.
PS: Where does the game against UTEP (21 carries, 233 yards, 2 TDs) rank among your college accomplishments
LM: That ranks pretty high. You talk about those numbers. That was a game where I was just feeling it; just in the groove and every time I touched the ball, I was trying to make something out of nothing and when it was there, I had to try to make it a home run. I think it ranks pretty high amongst my games at UCF.
PS: Talk about your Senior year. Do you feel like you finally blossomed and were set free to play your game?
LM: Senior year, me getting an opportunity to start was something that I always wanted. I think I made the most of it and it was the best season I had while at UCF. I set a goal to be first team all-conference; I accomplished that. I wanted rush for 1,000 yards and I accomplished that as well. I just knew if I had the opportunity to start, to get enough carries and get a groove going, I know I could do what I did with the opportunities.
PS: For people who are not familiar with you, break down your game
LM: First of all, as a running back, you have to have great vision, great patience, but then again, you have to know how to hit the hole. I think I do all of that very well. With my size, I can be a downhill runner, get tough yards, be a power back, but I also have speed, can get out on the edge, and I have the ability to make guys miss. I think I catch real well out of the backfield. My IQ for the game can definitely put me at any position on the field to make plays. It’s just something I do want teams to know that I’m an offensive weapon. First, I’m a running back but I’m an offensive weapon overall. Those are things I want teams to know.
PS: You mentioned being a receiving threat and you’re someone who can block. Tell me about your approach to those two areas of your game
LM: Those are areas I think I do a good job already, but I want to get better at to make my game, me as a running back, and as a football player, to make me better all around. Those are things I will continue to work at to get better at so I can help myself.
PS: You’ve been listed at 6’3”. What is your official height and talk about the advantages and the disadvantage of being a tall running back
LM: I think I’ve been listed anywhere from 6’2½” to 6’3”, so I think I’m around there. I think the advantage of me being tall; I fall forward and get an extra yard compared to what shorter backs may get. Being bigger and being able to give hits and not go down as easy as some other guys. The disadvantage may be just not being able to get low and my leverage, maybe me being a little high. Things I can try to work on and make sure I’m staying low as a running back at all times and getting good leverage.
PS: When you look at guys in the NFL, do you focus on taller guys or do you just try to take something from everyone?
LM: Naturally, you’re gonna look at everybody but in a sense, you’ve got to look at those guys that are similar to your size and see how they do well in the things they do with the size they have and incorporate that in my game.
PS: What did you want to prove going into the Texas vs The Nation Game and what was your attitude going into that game?
LM: My attitude is just to be able to get to play another college game and getting to show scouts that I could compete with those teams, those bigger schools that were at the game and just compete with some different competition, some more competition. Practice was very important and just come out in practice and just make plays and play how I know how to play was the most important for me.
PS: Your Pro Day got some notice. You were not invited to the Combine, so what did that performance mean?
LM: It means a lot. I didn’t let it affect my work ethic at all. If anything, it motivated me that I didn’t get invited to the Combine. It was more important to me and meant a lot more to me that I came out on Pro Day and performed well and put up great numbers, and run drills great and run routes well; show them what they missed since I didn’t get to go to the combine.
PS: How many teams came out to look at you at the Pro Day?
LM: I think maybe 20 teams were there.
PS: What’s your general attitude going through the draft process in general?
LM: Just for teams to know that I’m an offensive weapon and when I get my chance, just prove it. That’s all I can ask for; a team that believes in me, that wants to give me a shot. The rest is up to me. I’m confident in my abilities that I will do well with my chance.
PS: Every year, there seems to be a running back or few that gets drafted late or not at all and makes an impact. What is your take on that and why should teams think that will be you?
LM: The success I had this past year and if they want to incorporate Pro Day if they want to look at Pro Day and talk numbers. On film, I ran for 1,000 yards and caught the ball well. So that shows I can catch out of the backfield. I can play a different position. I think I’m an offensive weapon. Me, being that guy that if the team waits or later on or just being the guy who blossoms late or just getting that chance to surprise people. I think a team wouldn’t be satisfied and they would have made a better decision or made a good decision on going with me.
PS: Talk about what you’ve gained from your time under Coach (George) O’Leary.
LM: He’s a coach that is very big on responsibility and accountability. Coming here as a freshman and a lot of growing up and learning the importance of responsibility and accountability. Getting in the playbook, being on time for things, doing the right thing on and off the field. In this style of offense, the pro style, I-back, power back sets. Things similar to what they run in the NFL. I just think I learned a lot I think that will help me at the next level.
PS: You mentioned the fact you have a lot of experience in different looks; single back, shotgun, 2-back sets, do you feel like you have an advantage going into the process as a result?
LM: I really do. Along with my IQ, my offensive coordinator will tell you that things click with me well, pick up easy. I think it just comes natural and I think it is definitely an advantage doing a lot of things in a lot of different looks.
PS: Tell me about another coach that helped you in your development throughout your career
LM: Being here at UCF, the last two years were where I really developed as a running back. My running back coach, Coach Danny Barrett, he really did a good job, pushing us a whole running back group, pushing me, just really shaping me into a good back. I have to give credit to him. In high school as well, coaches I played under. But I think coach Barrett, just being here, those last two years at college, helped me out to blossom.
PS: Why did you major in interpersonal and organizational communication?
LM: For me, originally when I came, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after football. And communications is really broad. More broad than other majors maybe; it was something that I could get my degree in but still have a little lee-way on some decisions or choices or jobs or opportunities after football. And not be stuck with a major that didn’t have the same kind of outcome.
Latavius Murray has put in a lot of hard work and feels like he is just coming into his own as a running back and believes his best football could be ahead of him. Good luck to him as he chases his dream to play in the NFL.