Hanging in Latavius Murray’s home office is a photograph that might not draw your attention at first glance.
It’s not flashy, and it’s not particularly large. In it, Murray isn’t running the ball, scoring a touchdown or celebrating a Vikings win.
In fact, he’s not playing football at all. Rather, the photo captures Murray in a casual game of pick-up soccer, his arms raised above his head in excitement for the little boy who had just sent the black-and-white ball sailing through the goal.
Murray will cherish the photo because it perfectly encompasses his trip to Haiti.
The boy doesn’t know that Murray plays for the NFL, that he’s scored numerous touchdowns before thousands of fans. He likely has never heard of the Vikings.
For Murray, the score of this particular soccer game doesn’t matter – but the smiles do.
Murray first traveled to Haiti in 2016 with his then-teammate, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. When he had the chance to return with Carr this offseason, the running back jumped at the chance.
“It’s kind of an eye-opener, you know what I mean? It’s something that’s very emotional to see. It’s humbling to see,” Murray said of the motivation behind his trip. “I think, for the most part, it was something that I needed. I think it’s something that everybody needs – to understand what truly living in poverty is.
“I think here in the U.S. we have an idea of it,” Murray continued. “It’s our notion of what poverty is, but I think until we go outside in the world and see a different kind of poverty – it’s an eye-opener.”
When Murray and Carr invited other players to accompany them to Haiti, a common question was, ‘What do you do?’ Build houses? A football camp?
But what makes the trip unique is that there is no agenda.
For Murray and the others, only one goal surrounds the trip – “just have fun” – whether they’re handing out candy to local village children, passing around bowls of rice at the orphanage or playing a game of pickup football.
“That’s really why we go there – to show some love to them, make them smile,” Murray said. “It has such a big impact because it’s the simplest things that make them happy.
“Something that’s so simple, a football that we get to play with and throw around every day,” Murray added. “Most of these kids don’t own a football. A lot of them don’t even know what a football is. It’s just, it amazes me how simple things mean so much to them.”
Piggy-back rides and tossing the pigskin may have left an impression, but Murray hopes to make a more lasting difference for one young man whose story has stuck with him.
While in Haiti, Murray was told about a boy in a nearby village who, while suffering a seizure, fell into a fire. The resulting burns down one side of his body were incredibly severe, and after insufficient medical treatment and a crude healing process, the skin on the boy’s head and neck have become attached to his shoulder.
“They [can only] treat him with vaccines, ointment,” said Murray, adding that local medical facilities are unable to provide the plastic surgery needed.
Touched by the story, Murray – along with Bills RB Taiwan Jones and Cowboys FB Jamize Olawale – offered to cover expenses to travel the boy to Boston for surgery and treatment by a specialist.
“They’re searching right now for a family in Boston to take him in,” Murray said. “He’s still in pain, and it’s been maybe a month since the accident happened.
“We’re just waiting to hear back and see if he can get a medical visa,” he added.
Murray may have only spent a week in Haiti, but the experience is one he won’t soon forget. And he’s grateful for the photo he often reflects on.
“I printed that one out and framed it – in Haiti, me just having fun with the kids,” Murray said. “I can definitely look back at it and remember that moment.”
Follow along on Vikings RB Latavius Murray's offseason trips to Haiti, Germany & Italy.
*Murray continues offseason impact with goodwill tour *
Not long after his return from Haiti, Murray set off again – this time for Italy and Germany as part of an annual NFL-USO Tour.
Murray had mentioned interest in the trip to a friend in the league office the year prior; when he received an invite for the 2018 tour, he jumped at the chance.
The unique trip offered Murray an opportunity to see Germany for the first time and return to Italy for a second consecutive offseason. His decision to participate, however, was less about sightseeing and more about connecting with Americans stationed far from home.
It was a feeling shared by Murray’s NFL counterparts on this year’s tour: Saints RB Mark Ingram, Panthers DE Mario Addison, Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap, Falcons G Ben Garland and former Head Coach Rex Ryan.
“It’s a way to visit people that are from home [but living] far, far away,” Murray said. “When you’re looking at it from their perspective, it’s like, ‘Man, there’s Mark Ingram from the New Orleans Saints, and I’m from New Orleans,’ … That means the world to someone who’s been serving our country overseas for the past two years or three years, don’t get a chance to maybe go home often. To me, realizing what that meant to them was probably the coolest thing.”
Murray met numerous NFL fans, including several Vikings fans, among military members and their families stationed overseas.
“It’s amazing. To see those colors in Germany, to see that logo in Italy, it’s just a really cool feeling,” Murray said. “I get excited for every player that was there or every team that was represented there, because I think it’s special.
“It just shows how special this game is, how loved the game is, and it just shows you, man, how fortunate we really are to be able to put on a [jersey] and play a game that’s so loved by people all over the world, no matter where they’re from,” Murray continued. “I think those are the things that really allows your appreciation for the game to grow.”
In addition to connecting with fans, Murray appreciated the chance to bond with other names from around the league. Whether it was laughing at Ingram’s drill run with an Air Base security dog or taking in stories from Ryan’s years in the NFL, Murray is grateful for the experience that he won’t soon forget.
The trip also was significant because of his personal connection to the armed services.
Murray’s fiancé Shauntay Skanes, whom he proposed to in March, is an active member of the U.S. Navy. Skanes currently is stationed in Miami on the administrative side.
“I think, ‘This could have been her,’ or, ‘This could have been our family, if I wasn’t playing, overseas somewhere,’ ” Murray said. “If I’m a Vikings fan, and I see Adam Thielen or Dalvin Cook walk into my Navy base while I’m stationed in Italy or Germany, that’s going to blow my mind.
“I thought about that from her perspective and their perspective, and it kind of shows you how you’re really making an impact in people’s lives without really realizing it,” Murray added.