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Inside the CFL: The smaller DB Najee Murray makes a big difference in the Alouettes secondary

"I don't think he fully understands his potential. That's the scary part," said defensive coordinator Baron Miles. .. "He is finding his niche."

Despite frequently covering Duke Williams, who is —seven inches taller and 31 pounds heavier, ALouettes' Najee Murray had five tackles and knocked down two passes last week vs. Saskatchewan.
Height Despite frequent coverage of the 7-inch, 31 Duke Williams, the pound was heavy, and Alouettes' Najee Murray had five tackles against Saskatchewan last week and knocked down two passes. Photo: Allen McInnis/Montreal Gazette

Steubenville, Ohio hit hard in the 1980s received. After the steel industry began to decline, the economy was sluggish and some factories were forced to close.

However, growing up there and standing along the Ohio River, about 55 km from Pittsburgh, helped shape people and soccer players. It will beNagy Murray. According to the 2020 census, the population is 18,161 and the football tradition is rich. Most stores close early on Friday, so anyone can take part in high school games.

"That's all we're looking forward to," Steubenville High's former prominent Alouette defensive back told Montreal Gazette this week. "When it comes to football, that's all we know. There's a deep tradition, so I love this game and I'm very passionate about it. I'm looking forward to football."

In his fourth season with Ars, 5 feet 8, 194 pounds are starting to play and bloom on the strong side. Fast, athletic and versatile, Murray finished one of his most impressive performances against Saskatchewan last week. I had to intercept the early path. At one point he tackled three times in a row and was always around the ball.

Murray, 28, has contributed so much to Ars' defensive plan that he was early rejuvenated from the six-game injured list. He made his first start after changing clothes in Toronto on June 16th. For rough riders.

"I don't think he fully understands his potential. That's a scary part," said defensive coordinatorBaron Miles. "He's coming in and finding his niche. He's played multiple positions throughout his career, but last year I told him that a strong DB position could be his go-to position. It's a difficult place and a difficult position, but he's doing it well. "

To Murray, even though he only played 22 career games in Ars. Has already had 5 intercepts, 2 of which were returned for touchdown. He started last season with a strong sideline backer from the injuredPatrick Levelsand shifted to a cornerback. And now he quickly becomes a secondary blockade player, overcoming his lack of size.

"Football makes you crazy," Murray said with a laugh. "I don't think those guys are much bigger than me. I don't see Williams as a big guy. I think they're about the same size because I've been playing all the time. You just have a heart. Must have, relentless and resilient.

"Someone will say negative things about your size ... you can't play, you're too small. I care about size. Don't. Show that you can play with a 6'4 guy as much as you can with a 5'8 guy. "

Like Murray's rapidly becoming CFL player. It's hard to imagine that life might have worked differently.

Murray was part of Urban Meyer's first recruitment class at the famous Ohio State University. A four-star new employee, ranked him as the 20th best cornerback in the 2012 high school graduation class. Murray played six games as a freshman, primarily on a special team, until his knee ligament rupture ended the season.

However, as a sophomore, he was suspended indefinitely after the training camp incident before being kicked off the team for violating the team's rules. Even ten years later, Murray never reveals what happened. It is enough to say that he was young and made a mistake.

"You went to college, you're away from home, you're only 18 years old," he said. "Don't try to blend in with the crowd."

Murray transferred to Kent State University and proved to be an integral part of a non-competitive team in grades 3-9. However, he was named the first team of All MAC, completing a career of 27 games, knocking down 100 tackles, 21 passes, recovering 4 fumbles and intercepting 2 passes. He recorded his first career touchdown with a 47-yard fumble return to West Michigan.

Murray signed with Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but was released from the practice roster that September. He was on the British Columbia bargaining list, but his rights were exchanged for Montreal.

"Something happened and I'm here now," he said. "Montreal gave me a great opportunity in 2018, but I can't thank them enough. There's always a lot in life ... if you were there or this happened Then you never know because it never happened. There is a reason God brought me here. "

And Miles is his position coach. That's probably a coincidence. Miles was only £ 5'9 and £ 182, but he was a six-time CFL All-Star in 12 seasons with Ars and Lions. Understanding the role and potential value of a small defensive back is second to none.

"It's about having an attitude towards the ball," he explained. "You don't have to defeat the receiver. You just defeat the ball. That's the lowest common denominator.

" When you're small, everyone will take you for granted. That's okay. They won't think much about you. That's okay. They aren't aiming at you or aiming at you. They aren't at the top of their game. It's their fault— And you get them to pay for it. "

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