Shaquille Murray-Lawrence had a choice.
He could try to balance playing in the Canadian Football League with training for Canada’s four-man Olympic bobsled team, or he could go all in for the Winter Games.
Murray-Lawrence, a former UNLV running back, chose the latter and is heading to Beijing as an alternate.
The opening ceremony is Friday, and the four-man bobsled events are Feb. 18 and 19.
“You’re with these guys literally 24/7,” Murray-Lawrence said. “You travel with them for months, rooming with different guys, those guys become a family. That’s something I really enjoy. And on the athletic side, it’s real explosive. I get a chance to use my God-given abilities, my speed and my power, and put it all together and lay it on the line.”
Even though he’s an alternate, Murray-Lawrence hopes to perform in China. He believes he has earned the right.
Murray-Lawrence, 28, was part of the winning team in a 2021 Europe Cup race in Altenberg, Germany. His team also finished 11th in the World Cup in 2021 and 13th this year.
In the North America Cup, Murray-Lawrence and his team registered six gold medals and two silvers.
Yet, his three teammates were selected for the Olympic team while Murray-Lawrence was replaced by Jacob Dearborn. What made that decision particularly galling to Murray-Lawrence was he devoted all his time to bobsledding while Dearborn chose to play in the CFL and then compete in bobsledding.
“From what I’ve been told from the coaches, we will see when we get over there, so nothing is definitive yet,” Murray-Lawrence said. “When they told me I was in the alternate role, it was devastating news to me, especially because I had raced literally the whole year, racked up a whole bunch of medals with my team, didn’t miss a race, qualified our sled for the Olympic Games.
“But business is business,” he added. “I’m there ready to go whenever.”
Murray-Lawrence played for UNLV in 2013, rushing for 418 yards his junior season and 552 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. He ran for more than 100 yards in three of his final five games, including 143 against Brigham Young.
The Rebels played in Sam Boyd Stadium at the time, and Murray-Lawrence looks forward to seeing them play at Allegiant Stadium at some point.
“I haven’t been to a game in maybe three years,” he said. “I like what’s going on. I like the culture. I love the uniforms. Oh, my goodness, I wish we had those. And that stadium, these kids are lucky. They need to enjoy it.”
After his UNLV playing days, Murray-Lawrence returned to his native country to play in the CFL for British Columbia and Montreal from 2015 to 2019. He received interest in trying bobsledding in 2017, but his focus at the time was on football.
Then when COVID-19 shut down the 2020 CFL season, Murray-Lawrence used that as his opportunity to give bobsledding a try. He said he “quickly fell in love with the sport.” When the CFL returned in 2021, Murray-Lawrence decided his attention needed to be on bobsledding.
He is the final man into the bobsled on the four-man team and the one most responsible for braking.
“Typically, that’s your fastest athlete because the sled is accelerating so fast with guys pushing it,” Murray-Lawrence said. “At the end of the race, the boys yell ‘Brakes!’ I’ve got to stop the sled, or we’re all going for a ride.”
Dates: Friday-Feb. 20
TV: NBC, USA, CNBC
Streaming: Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, NBC app
Local connections: Brendan Brisson (U.S. hockey), Kaysha Love (U.S. bobsled), Shaquille Murray-Lawrence (Canada bobsled)