OXNARD, Calif. – DeMarco Murray isn’t ready to think of himself in the same company as Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith, though he already is listed among the Dallas Cowboys’ two Hall of Fame running backs in the team record book.
"Those are two legends," said Murray, a former Bishop Gorman High School star. "That has never crossed my mind to be compared to them or to have anything to do with them. I have a lot of respect for them. Mentors. I have had a chance to talk with both of them."
On the first carry of his first start, Murray ran 91 yards for a touchdown – the longest for any player’s first TD run since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. The only longer scoring run in Cowboys history is Dorsett’s memorable 99-yarder in a 1983 Monday night game.
Murray ran for a team-record 253 yards in that first start and had 601 yards in his first four – more than NFL career rushing leader Smith ever had over a similar stretch. And Murray finished as the team’s leading rusher for the season even after missing the last three games because of a broken right ankle.
After getting his first start when Felix Jones was hurt in October, Murray came into this training camp for the Cowboys as the No. 1 running back. The first practice in pads was Wednesday, before a day off Thursday.
"It’s a great feeling being out here, getting the plays, getting the reps," Murray said. "Not only the physical reps, the mental reps, go back in film and watch myself. It’s exciting, and I’m glad I got an early start."
Murray, a third-round draft pick last season out of Oklahoma, said he still is working hard to get the plays down and know his blocking assignments to help protect quarterback Tony Romo when he’s not carrying the ball. And Murray wants to get better catching the ball.
He also is watching more film, something he didn’t do much in college.
"I would watch it but not understand it," Murray said. "Now coach (Skip) Peete and (new offensive coordinator Bill) Callahan showed me what to look at and understand what I’m looking at."
What Murray isn’t worried about is trying to live up to an impressive injury-shortened rookie season.
"Not at all. I have a lot of high standards. No one sets the bar higher than me, I have a very high standard for myself playing," he said. "I love this game, and I am going to try to do anything and everything I can to help this team out."
Coach Jason Garrett doesn’t like to compare players. But he also believes it’s important not to compare what a guy has done from one year to the next, since the conditions change and there can be different dynamics to the team and different competition.
"It’s important to try to come to work every day, try to be your best, improve in all areas, try to get yourself physically and mentally ready to be your best and not worry about what you’ve done in the past, either good or bad," Garrett said.
There are some positive changes for Murray and the entire offense with the offseason addition of veteran fullback Lawrence Vickers and changes on the offensive line.
"We believe in balance on offense, being a physical team," Garrett said. "Running the football is a big part of that, and we wanted to address some of those things in the offseason. … DeMarco is going to be a big part of that. And we have tried to make the conditions better for him."