“I love training MMA. It’s definitely a lot different
than what I do on the football field, but some things you can translate
into your game." - DeMarco Murray
Vote here for DeMarco to be on the cover of the NCAA College Football 12 game and help the UFC conquer new territory - if Murray wins, he's promised to wear a UFC logo to the NFL draft day!
With the current NFL lockout in effect, Baltimore Ravens safety Tommy Zbikowski is using the time to continue his pro boxing career, and he’s gotten solid reviews thus far. So considering all the time he’s been spending supplementing his regular training with MMA-centric work, is former Oklahoma Sooners running back and future NFL draftee DeMarco Murray thinking of hitting the Octagon should the 2011 football season be delayed?
“Man, I don’t know about that,” laughed the Las Vegas native, who has nonetheless become pretty visible to UFC fans in recent weeks.
Not only have they seen him at UFC 128 in Newark, on the organization’s Twitter account, and in videos training with Demian Maia, but he’s been praised by Octagon superstars such as Chuck Liddell, Georges St-Pierre, and Frankie Edgar, who have asked fans to vote for him to become the EA Sports NCAA Football 12 cover athlete.
“I’ve grown up playing this game as far back as I can think of and it would mean a lot to me,” said Murray, who would be joining a cast of previous cover athletes that includes Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Desmond Howard, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, Michael Crabtree, and Tim Tebow should he win. “I’ve got a lot of people behind me supporting the cause and I really appreciate them. I’m still playing the game with the whole dynasty thing, so it would definitely be a dream come true. I never thought that I would even be mentioned or have the opportunity to be one of the four who could possibly be on the cover, so it feels good.”
Yet what seems like an odd pairing of football and mixed martial arts at first glance makes perfect sense when you look a little deeper.
The 23 year old Murray is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, the same school attended by UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White. Lorenzo, a diehard football fan, was (like any Vegas football follower) immediately impressed with Murray, who was an All-Conference pick three consecutive years.
“He (Fertitta) supported my football team when I was the head coach at Bishop Gorman and has followed DeMarco throughout his high school career,” said David White, Murray’s high school coach.
On the other side of the equation, Murray was an unabashed UFC fan who attended fights from the time he was a teenager.
“I’ve been a fan since freshman year of high school,” he said. “Just watching what Lorenzo has done and the platform he’s put it on now, it’s just grown amazingly.”
After being heavily recruited by national powerhouses like Miami, Texas A&M, and Penn State, Murray decided to go to Oklahoma, and after redshirting during the 2006 season, he made his Sooner debut against the University of North Texas in 2007 and rushed for five touchdowns and 201 yards. That performance kicked off a spectacular year that saw him tie Adrian Peterson’s freshman mark for touchdowns with 15, and by the time he was done at Oklahoma, he set an All-Time school record with 58 touchdowns.
All the while, his trips back to Vegas in the off-season were filled not just with normal strength and conditioning workouts, but with a little bit of MMA as well.
“Lorenzo really saw the value in incorporating MMA training into his (Murray’s) workouts,” said White. “DeMarco is a blessed athlete, and I wanted him get some MMA training and do something different when he’s home because the workouts at OU are so demanding. Lorenzo gave him an opportunity to work out and continue to develop. The funny part is that at first he was nervous because he didn't want to get knocked out or put to sleep. (Laughs) But he loved working out at Lorenzo's gym and it increased his athletic ability. DeMarco is passionate about being the best and he sees what a great opportunity it is to learn MMA. He understands the benefits it will bring to his NFL career and really appreciates all that Lorenzo, Dana and the UFC family has done for him.”
“I love training MMA,” said Murray. “It’s definitely a lot different than what I do on the football field, but some things you can translate into your game. I spent three, four weeks in Las Vegas training with Giff (striking coach James Gifford) at Lorenzo’s gym and that definitely helped me out a lot with my hand coordination and speed, along with working muscles that I’ve never worked on in football. I’ll definitely continue to implement those regimens into my training.”
And with the NFL Draft just a few weeks away, the madness has begun for Murray, who’s fitting the demands of the outside world into small increments of time between workouts. But he’s handling it all with grace and with the idea that all of this is what he’s been shooting for since the first time he picked up a football.
“Knowing what position I’m in and that all the things I’ve worked hard for are right in front of me, I’m blessed and privileged to have this opportunity and I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he said.
He also found a spot for some downtime a couple weeks back as he attended the UFC 128 festivities in Newark, New Jersey, even going on stage during the pre-fight weigh ins. Not surprisingly, the roar of the crowd got him amped up to hear some cheers of his own later this year.
“Looking at all those lights and the way that Shogun (Rua) and Bones (Jones) performed in front of the crowd, it was just amazing,” he said. “I’ve been out of football for a while since January, so I definitely can’t wait to strap up the cleats and the pads and get it going again.”
And once he’s on the gridiron again, it will likely be clear that like the best fighters in the UFC, Murray is a money player, the kind of guy you want to give the ball to when the game is on the line.
“I definitely see a similarity,” he said. “They train X amount of months just for one night and we train and train just for one game. It’s not like basketball where you can play two games back-to-back. Here, you get just one shot at it and you train so hard and you’re focused on that night. The two sports have a lot in common because you can’t just be physically ready; you have to be mentally ready as well.”
See, DeMarco Murray and the UFC are a natural fit.
“Lorenzo’s a great friend of mine and I’ve known him for a while,” said Murray. “I’m just blessed to know a guy like that and I’m happy the UFC fighters are on my side and getting the fans out there to vote.”
To vote for DeMarco Murray to be the NCAA Football 12 cover athlete, visit www.facebook.com/easportsncaafootball