Two years ago, Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray experienced his all-time low.
While returning the opening kickoff of the Big 12 Championship, he tore his hamstring.
Gone was the chance to jump to the NFL. Gone was the opportunity to play for a national championship.
And in their place, another winding road back to recovery.
As the team prepared for the national title against Florida, Murray spent most of the two weeks in Miami depressed in his hotel room.
“That was the hardest time in my life,” he said. “I didn't go to any practices while I was there. Just stayed in my room, like Debbie Downer.”
Murray's Sooner career has been full of adversity.
He had to sit his true freshman season while battling turf toe. His redshirt freshman year was cut short when he dislocated a kneecap trying to recover an onside kick. His sophomore season, while setting the school's season record for all-purpose yards on the very same play, Murray injured the hamstring. Then last year, he missed time dealing with a pull on his other hamstring, then later a sprained ankle.
But Murray ended last season with a full bill of health. And this offseason, instead of worrying about rehabbing, Murray has finally been able to focus on becoming a better player.
“I went through spring and summer without any injuries, no problems,” he said.
Murray admits his goal has always been to rush for 2,000 yards, something no Sooner running back has ever accomplished. Adrian Peterson came closest with 1,925 yards in 2004.
But if OU's offensive line improves and Murray can remain healthy, that goal might not be a pipe dream.
“We anticipate him having a really big year for us,” coach Bob Stoops said during Big 12 Media Days last week. “We're hoping ... similar to a guy like Adrian Peterson, that kind of opportunity to run the ball or have his hands on the ball that number of times.”
Murray has dedicated this offseason to preparing for that kind of workload.
Instead of going out for fast food, he's been grilling chicken and vegetables in olive oil at home. He's also spent countless hours stretching out his muscles. He's even taken a yoga class.
“In high school, I thought I was invincible. I'd eat McDonald's right before practice. Drink soda. Not stretch. Just go out and run hard and call it a day,” said Murray, who needs 1,574 yards to catch Peterson on OU's all-time rushing list and 1,647 to tie career leader Billy Sims. “Now, I've taken a lot of measures to get where I want to be and stay healthy and continue to work hard to be a better player.”
Murray said he believes his new outlook has much to do with the misfortune he's endured. Sometimes, to truly appreciate being on the field, he says, you have to spend time off it.
“I don't question what I've gone through,” Murray said. “I think it's only made me stronger and better as a person. Having gone through what I have, you don't take anything for granted.
“I'm just going to go out and play every play like it's going to be my last. Because it could be.”
And, now through his lows, Murray is ready to go out on an all-time high.
“I'm feeling great,” he said. “I'm mentally there, physically there.
“I'm just ready to get it going.”
The DeMarco Murray file Position: Running back Yr.: Senior Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 207 Hometown: Las Vegas