EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The negotiations went the distance, and now
The former Oakland Raiders running back signed with Minnesota as Wednesday night became Thursday and after a marathon day at the team’s Winter Park headquarters.
Murray is well aware that U.S. Bank Stadium is scheduled to host Super Bowl LII in February 2018 and wants to help the Vikings become the first team to make a championship game in its home venue.
“I’m so excited. I saw it earlier, when I first got in,” Murray explained in an interview with Vikings.com’s Mike Wobschall. “I know that place is going to be rocking for the Super Bowl. I just hope that we’re in it.”
Murray told Wobschall that making the playoffs with Oakland for the first time in 2016 was his favorite memory through his first four pro seasons.
“Those first few years that I was there in Oakland, we didn’t make the postseason,” Murray said. “To see it, to be a part of it and see what winning is like, I’m glad I got that opportunity and now I can bring that knowledge and everything I’ve learned about what it takes here to Minnesota.”
That team success exceeded the previous season when he rushed for a career-best 1,066 yards, which ranked sixth in the NFL and helped garner his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Doubling his touchdowns from six in 2015 to 12 last season probably didn’t hurt either. Murray did so on 71 fewer rush attempts in 2016 and maintained a rush average of 4.0 yards per carry.
“Gotta have a nose for the end zone,” Murray said. “I was able to double my touchdowns from the last season, so I just want to continue that, obviously, and find a way to score points. Anytime you get into that end zone, you’ve got to take advantage if you’re close.”
The native of Nedrow, New York — a town of more than 2,200 south of Syracuse — starred at Central Florida but was left off the guest list for the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. He impressed with a solid pro day at the school and was selected by Oakland with the 181st overall pick in the sixth round.
An injury cost Murray all of his rookie season, but he worked his way into the rotation in 2014 with three starts in 15 games. Murray started 28 of the 30 games he’s played the past two seasons.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds by the Raiders, Murray features a blend of power and speed.
“I’m a taller guy. I have speed, but I’m more of a downhill runner, one cut and hit it kind of guy,” Murray explained. “I don’t like to dance too much. That’s not my style. I want to take advantage of the yards that’s there, but when I get the chance, I will use my speed.
“A 4.3 guy (time clocked in the 40-yard dash), still maybe around there, we’ll see, but I’ve definitely got the speed when I get outside,” Murray said. “I definitely need to do that a lot more.”
He turned in a 90-yard touchdown in 2014, runs of 54 and 44 yards in 2015 and a 42-yard scamper in 2016.
Murray also has caught 91 passes for 639 yards, including 74 receptions for 496 yards in the past two seasons. He said he takes pride in helping block on pass plays, too.
“The more you can do, the more you find yourself on the field,” Murray said. “That’s something I’m going to continue working on, my hands and just being an offensive weapon. I can pass block, protect the quarterback and give him time to get the ball out to the playmakers.”
Murray’s first foray into free agency provided a learning experience in more ways than one.
“Obviously, with it being my first time, I didn’t know what to expect,” Murray said. “I’m just glad I get the chance to play the game again with a great team that has a great history.
“I always wanted to play in the NFL, have always been a football guy,” Murray added. “I grew up watching Randy Moss and Cris Carter. It definitely is a dream to continue playing and go through this process and come out of it and play for a team like the Vikings.”
While negotiations were ongoing between the Vikings and Murray’s agent, he spent part of his evening completing online coursework for a Marketing Management class at Syracuse University, where he’s working on an MBA degree.
“It’s been interesting, especially when you’ve been out of school for four years and decide to go back and get your master’s in business,” Murray said. “It was something I didn’t do [at Central Florida]. I got a communications degree [in undergrad]. It’s been fun, a learning experience for me to go back to school and learn a little bit about business in general. It helps me understand the business I’m in a little more and some other things outside of that, so it’s been fun.”