Have you ever heard the football term “running angry”? Well, in the case of Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray the term fits like a glove.
But we’re not talking metaphorically when it comes to Murray. No, I mean that literally.
The punishing, physical style of running that made Murray one of the elite backs in the NFL the last few years can be directly attributed to the huge chip he has carried on his shoulder since he entered the league.
And if you are a Titans fan I have good news. Murray enters the 2017 season with plenty of motivation to prove that he is still the man.
It started when the Dallas Cowboys selected him in the third round of the 2011 draft. When his rookie season began he was buried on the depth chart behind Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, all while knowing that he was the best back on the roster.
When injuries pushed him to the top of the depth chart a few weeks into the season, Murray seized the opportunity by rushing for 253 yards…breaking Emmitt Smith’s franchise record for most rushing yards in a game.
By 2014 Murray had climbed to the top of the mountain, leading the league in rushing while earning the Offensive Player of the Year award.
But before he could rest on his laurels the Cowboys elected to re-sign wide receiver Dez Bryant that following offseason instead of him, and Murray found himself with the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
After one disastrous season with the Eagles Murray sought out a trade and ultimately landed in Tennessee in the spring of 2016.
He arrived in Nashville with the same chip that fueled him as a third-stringer in Dallas, and the Titans reaped the benefit of having the AFC’s leading rusher in their backfield last season.
Murray showed that he was still a Pro Bowl caliber franchise back, and in turn the Titans enjoyed their biggest single season turnaround in franchise history.
Once again the toast of the town, with memories of Philly faded from everyone’s memory, you would think that Murray could finally take his foot off the pedal and coast his way into retirement…
Until fate intervened once again…
Murray injured his hamstring early in camp this summer, and only carried the ball six times all preseason. Derrick Henry, his back up and heir apparent, took advantage of the increased reps and looked good throughout the preseason.
So much so that fans and media alike questioned if this would be the year that Murray is supplanted by the former Heisman Trophy winner. After all, Henry is bigger, stronger, and most of all…younger and cheaper.
A recipe for disaster for a soon to be 30-year-old running back. That is…if the back is not named DeMarco Murray.
History has shown that Murray thrives when doubted, like he needs that chip on his shoulder to stay motivated….to stay running angry.
In Dallas he used that chip to climb from the bottom of the depth chart to the top of the league’s rushing standings. In Tennessee last season he used that chip to prove that 2015 was a fluke. And in the process Muray not only reinvent himself, but also the Titans’ identity and fortunes in the process.
This year he will use the footsteps of a young, up and coming franchise back that’s waiting patiently in the wings as his chip.
And for a team with playoff aspirations that’s built on running the ball, that should be music to Tennessee’s ears in 2017.