Prior to joining the Sooners’ coaching staff, Murray served as the running backs coach for one year at the University of Arizona, where Gary Brightwell was a part of the backfield. It just so happens that the 2019 campaign happened to be Brightwell’s most efficient with the Wildcats, as he averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 66 rush attempts, finishing with 390 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Similarly, Gray put together by far the best season of his collegiate career this past year while playing under Murray. After setting career-highs of 772 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns in his first three seasons, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound back easily topped all of those marks. Gray ran for a whopping 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns on 213 carries, good for an average of 6.4 yards per attempt, while adding 33 receptions for 229 yards.
As Gray is now set to embark in the next phase of his football journey, he noted how Murray “was the key to teaching me a lot about being successful in this league.”
“He knows about playing in the flow, playing in the heat of the battle, being out there and knowing fronts, knowing coverages,” the 23-year-old said about his former position coach. “He taught me a lot about reading the defense before the play happens, reading it pre-snap to give you a feel on where the ball is going to hit or even protection maybe.”
Despite being selected as second-team All-Big 12 pick this past season, Gray did not hear his name called until the fifth round (No. 172 overall) of last month’s draft. However, that slot has not diminished the rookie’s excitement about achieving his dream of making it to the NFL.
In fact, Gray does not have to look far to see that pro success does not require a high draft position. Murray was the Cowboys’ third-round pick in 2011.
“I’m just looking at my opportunity here,” Gray said about where he was drafted. “My opportunity, I’m here now. First day, second day, third day, that’s all out of the window. I’m here now. I got a chance to be in a special place like this, so I’m happy about it.”
Listening to the rookie running back talk, one thing is clear – Gray is confident that his physical abilities will translate to the professional level.
“I think football is football in my opinion,” said Gray. “I think you go out there, you work hard, you do what it takes on and off the field, and you let your body take over when you get out there.”