Though quick and agile at 6-3, 280-plus pounds, Cameron Murray and the word “speed” might not come to mind to the casual observer. But on a certain October night in 2014, “Big Cam” was as fast as he needed to be.
The Bryant Hornets football team was in the midst of what would become an eight-game winning streak that night. They were clinging to a 24-21 lead over the tradition-rich Greenwood Bulldogs team that rarely loses regular-season games.
The Bulldogs had just scored to close the gap and, with under three minutes left in the game, everyone knew they would try an onside kick. Now, other than winning, Greenwood is know for its execution in every phase of the game. And their eyes had to light up when the Hornets’ “hands” team — usually, all backs and receivers — included one guy that really stood out on the front line. It was “Big Cam”, a defensive lineman.
Here’s how it was described at the time:
“’We knew they’d kick it at him,’ acknowledged Bryant head coach Paul Calley. ‘If they see a big guy, a lineman out there, they’re going to kick it at him.’
“Now Murray was, at one time, good enough at basketball to play as a freshman on Mike Abrahamson’s Hornets basketball team. He could shoot, he could rebound and he could defend, taking up a lot of space inside. Though not known particularly for his ball-handling back then, he’s gained the endorsement of Calley and wound up convincing the Bulldogs.
“Sure enough, the rolling onside kick came right to him. He came up to meet it and knocked it down with one hand like he was taking a control dribble. The ball came right back up into his hands as the charging Bulldogs sprinted past him. Murray picked it clean off the bounce and headed the other way, out-sprinting everyone to the North end zone to give the Hornets a two-score margin with 2:34 left to play.
“’We feel like he’s got a pair of the best hands on the team,’ Calley asserted. ‘He is a point guard in a defensive lineman’s body — great hands. I’m not going to say, he did exactly what we wanted him to do. I’d rather had him let the ball go (the 10 yards). But the result was fantabulous. It hit his hands. He batted it in front of him, caught it in the air and took it to the house. That turned everything around.’”
Bryant won it 38-21 and that play provided a highlight to a season of adversity for Murray.
“One of the prettiest scoop-and-scores anybody’s ever seen,” declared Bryant defensive coordinator Steve Griffith.
“When I think of Cameron, he came in as a 10th grader, started right away, things went really smooth,” Griffith added. “He did a great job. Junior year was trying. He had a toe injury that slowed him for part of the season then he missed several weeks from sickness. Even when he came back, you could tell he didn’t have the strength and didn’t probably have the year that he hoped to have.
“Some young men would’ve stepped down from that but Cameron dedicated himself in the offseason to making sure his senior year was something special,” the coach continued. “He did not let adversity define what was happening. He made his mind up.”
And Murray, the son of Andrette and Gerald Murray, had such a great senior season that, on National Signing Day, he inked a Letter of Intent to continue his education and football career under scholarship at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
Murray chose OSU over offers from Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana Tech and A-State. “Oklahoma State came in and offered me around November, December,” he recalled. “I fell in love with the campus. Everything was nice. I loved it and just went for it.
The visit just made it perfect, just sealed the deal. Everything from the coaching staff, the way they loved me as a person and as a player, it just really felt good.”
“Cameron Murray has got so much potential,” Griffith said. He’s a young man that can carry a lot more weight. I’m confident he will continue to have great feet and movement.
“I look forward to him competing with other big, strong offensive and defensive linemen,” he added. “I think he will grow and develop and be an outstanding player for Oklahoma State in that league. He’ll do the Bryant Hornets proud when he gets there.”
As a three-year starter, Murray was in on 118 tackles including 22 for losses and three sacks. He broke up three passes, recovered three fumbles and blocked a kick. As an all-State selection his senior season, he was voted by his teammates as a permanent captain.
“We asked him to change positions,” Griffith pointed out. “He embraced that. It’s a sign of a great teammate when you’ll embrace a position change in order to make things better for your team. He just played a tremendous role throughout the year.”
The numbers actually don’t tell the entire story about Murray’s impact. He almost always drew a double team, which freed up his teammates to make stops.
“I wish we could’ve played Catholic every week because this man, against Little Rock Catholic, was a demon,” Griffith related. “But I really think, for me as a coach, was the Conway game (in 2015). We knew going in we needed that to get the top seed going to the playoffs and Cameron played a tremendous role. Secondary-wise, we did a great job. Quinton Royal, give him credit for three interceptions that night, but Cameron’s relentless pressure on the quarterback was the defining moment in that ball game.”
Often at a major college program like Oklahoma State, freshmen are red-shirted, to sit out a season with just practice and development. But the Cowboys, even though they’re coming off a 10-3 season that included a trip to the Sugar Bowl, gave up a ton of points last year, out-scoring many of their opponents — like the 70-53 win over Texas Tech.
“They said I could come in and could be an early contributor as a freshman,” Murray related. “They said I could be playing early. They don’t see me red-shirting.”
OSU’s success every year was not lost on him either.
“That’s one thing you want to be a part of, a winning team,” he acknowledged.
“We can see him play on TV every once in a while,” noted Griffith. “We’re going to point and say, ‘We know that guy right there.’”