Thursday, October 9, 2003

Miami's Murray has goals in air and on ground

NFL player, pilot RB's dream jobs

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Cal Murray currently anchors Miami's running game, but he's hoping his future is up in the air - literally.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior tailback intends to pursue a career as a pilot after he's finished playing football.

"It's a thrill to me," Murray said. "Being up there in control of a jet, flying to one place from another in a matter of hours, is intriguing to me."

Though Murray loves to fly, he's hoping his piloting days are a few years away - after he has followed in the footsteps of his father, Calvin, and played professional football. He says he'll go anywhere to play, including the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe, but a strong finish this season might prompt an NFL team to give him a shot.

Murray, who is sharing playing time with junior Mike Smith, leads the RedHawks with 333 yards in five games. That includes a season-high 108 yards in the RedHawks' 45-20 win over Akron Saturday.

"Cal was a game-ball recipient," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said. "He ran hard. He was about as excited and focused for a football game as I've ever seen him.

Murray needs just 10 rushing yards to set a personal single-season high.

"It's very gratifying," he said. "The difference this year is I'm a lot more focused. Last year, I wasn't as focused as I should have been."

Murray, a Columbus Bishop Watterson product, was not academically qualified to play as a freshman. He earned the starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2000, but he missed four of Miami's last six games because of injuries to his thigh, neck and back. He and Luke Clemens shared the starting job in 2001 before Steve Little took over midway through that season.

Murray was all set to start last season, but knee and ankle problems knocked him out and opened the door for Clemens to take over and gain 1,009 yards.

Murray got his chance this season when Clemens suffered a back injury Hoeppner said will require surgery this week.

"Last year, when I went down, Luke was there by my side," Murray said. "We were going to be a one-two combo, and we were looking forward to doing that this year. When he went down, our roles were reversed. Last year, he was making up for me being out. When I saw him go down, I decided to dedicate my play to him, because he was there for me last year.

"You don't want to see any of your teammates in pain. When they're in pain, you're in pain."

Murray hopes to avoid what he believes is the mistake made by his father, a former Ohio State tailback who played with Philadelphia and Chicago in the NFL.

"When my father retired in '86, he wasn't ready," Murray said. "You could see it in his eyes that he wished he'd played longer. I don't want to be 20 years down the road, saying 'What if?' "

Pursuing his other dream could help Murray cope if his days playing football end too soon. He has taken the aeronautics coursework offered by Miami, and the next step is saving money for flight training.

Murray's goal is to fly airliners or private jets, he said.

"Flying, to me, is like football," Murray said. "When you fly, it's a different experience. You have to worry about wind shear or cloud cover. There's always something you've got to fight against. I like the thrill of knowing that there's always something else around the corner."

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