Murray becoming Cowboys' work horse in the backfield

Nov 19 2011 - 6:02pm

DALLAS -- The kid is breaking one Hall of Famer's records and is being mentioned by the team owner in the same breath with another Hall of Famer.

Barely two months into his NFL career, DeMarco Murray is already inviting comparisons to local legends Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson.

But what Murray has done the last four weeks with his hands on the football has been both remarkable and surprising -- at least to those of us south of the Red River.

But those north of the Red River have seen all of this before from Murray.

Murray sprinted 91 yards for a touchdown against St. Louis in his first game as a feature back in the NFL last month. The folks north of the Red River saw him bolt 92 yards for a score last season against Utah State.

Murray broke Smith's single-game, franchise rushing record with 253 yards that Sunday afternoon against the Rams. The folks north of the Red River saw him slap a 200-yard rushing game that Saturday afternoon on Utah State.

Murray has been a workhorse since taking over as the focal point of the Cowboys offense, cradling at least 20 handoffs in three of those four games. The folks north of the Red River witnessed his durability last season with five games of 25-plus carries.

Third-round draft picks aren't supposed to make this kind of splash this early in their NFL careers. But the folks north of the Red River knew Murray wasn't your everyday third-round draft pick. His achievements are merely his capabilities.

"I can't say what he's done really surprises us," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We all knew what a quality player he was. At different times he did all of this at a different level for us.

"I've seen him have big runs for us here. I've seen him have big days for us here. I've seen him catch the ball, pick up blitzes and be physical. I hadn't seen him do it all at the professional level -- but no one had."

Those folks north of the Red River know a little something about running backs. Steve Owens and Billy Sims both won Heisman Trophies at Oklahoma and became first-round NFL draft picks and Pro Bowlers. Sims was the very first selection of his draft.

Joe Washington, Elvis Peacock, David Overstreet, Steve Sewell and Adrian Peterson all left Norman as first-round NFL draft picks. Washington became a Pro Bowler and Peterson an NFL rushing champion.

When the Oklahoma folks say a running back is special, the NFL ought to listen.

"We all knew DeMarco would be a great pro because of how versatile he is and how strong he is," Stoops said.

That's what's puzzling. Murray is exactly what the NFL covets in a running back. He has the size (5-11, 215 pounds), speed (4.39 40 at his campus workout) and major-college productivity. He gained more yards and scored more touchdowns than any player in Oklahoma's illustrious history. Yet 70 players, including five running backs, were selected before Murray last April.

Now Murray leads all rookie rushers with 674 yards this season -- almost double that of his closest competitor.

That's no surprise to the folks north of the Red River. They knew what the Cowboys were getting when they drafted Murray. They also know Murray has so much more to offer than what the Cowboys have seen thus far.

The Cowboys have barely tapped Murray's skills in the passing game. He set Oklahoma records for running backs with 71 receptions in 2010 and 1,571 career receiving yards. He had a 10-catch game against Colorado, 143 receiving yards against Texas A&M and a 76-yard reception against Baylor.

Murray has caught only 15 passes for the Cowboys with a long of only 17 yards. So Murray has more to give -- and those of us south of the Red River are eager to see him give it.

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