Overlooked by WVU, OU’s Kenneth Murray grew into a first round pick

(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kenneth Murray played some of his better games as an Oklahoma Sooner against West Virginia.

Those who are aware of Murray’s back story know that fact comes as no surprise.

Murray’s uncle, Lind Murray, played defensive back at WVU in 1980 and 1981. Those were the first two seasons of the new Mountaineer Field. Lind was a major reason Kenneth would eventually develop into a first round NFL draft pick.

“He definitely pushed me and pushed all of my buttons,” Murray said. “I listened and continued to grind. He was with me every step of the way and is definitely a huge reason I am in the position I am now.”

In elementary and middle school, the first sport Murray focused on was basketball. His time on the hardwood would be shortlived.

“I was really aggressive, to be honest. I would definitely use up all five of my fouls. If somebody blocked my shot, I definitely was trying to get some type of get back. That just let to a bunch of things, getting a lot of technical fouls. It just wasn’t for me.”

Murray grew up in Missouri City, Texas and turned his focus to football. He always kept an eye on his uncle’s former program.

“I wanted to go to WVU. That was my school. My uncle went there. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and be great. There was more than one WVU poster. That’s all I ever watched. That was really my first dream school.”

A trip to Austin in 2012 solidified Murray’s love for the game of football and his desire to one day compete at the highest level.

“My first time really knowing how big college football was, we went up to Austin and watched the WVU-Texas game when they first got in the Big 12. Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Geno Smith were on the team. I just remember after that, I was like man, I have to be a part of something like this. It influenced me a lot.”

The Mountaineers prevailed 48-45 in a thrilling contest. After the game, Stedman Bailey gave Murray his gloves.

“I probably slept with those gloves for like two years straight. I did everything with those gloves. That was something as a kid that was so crazy. It was one of the big reasons why after every game they can’t get me to keep a pair of gloves. I always give them away.”

Kenneth Murray (middle) reacts after the game against the Baylor Bears in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game.

Murray continued to develop as a high school player and top-level programs were taking notice with scholarship offers. Murray went to a camp at WVU and received some interest from Dana Holgorsen’s coaching staff. But an offer never came.

He signed with Oklahoma and needed just three seasons to become the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I don’t like to call it a ‘chip’, I call it a ‘boulder’. That’s really what it is. It is a big old rock sitting up there that I am constantly out there trying to prove myself right.”

Murray had no fewer than nine tackles in each of his three victories against West Virginia, ending his career with 28 stops against the Mountaineers. He had ten tackles in Oklahoma’s 59-56 win at WVU in 2018, Murray’s first game on the field he hoped to play his home games on.

“It was the last game of the season and they were pretty good at the time. It determined who went to the Big 12 Championship.

“It was a ball game. We ended up coming out with a win and it was definitely a battle.”

Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Kenneth Murray (9) during the second half against LSU.

At Oklahoma, Murray started all 42 games in 3 seasons, advancing to the College Football Playoff in each year. In April, the Los Angeles Chargers selected him with their second selection in the first round. Murray is spending some time in Morgantown visiting family as he prepares for the start of his first professional training camp in July.

“It has been one of my goals to be in the NFL and be a first round draft pick. To be able to achieve that has been like a dream. I am so happy and blessed to be in this position.”

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