It’s no secret the Patriots will have a new field general running their offense this season. Might they land a new one in the middle of their defense, as well?
New England lost three key members of its linebacker rotation to free agency but could replenish the group through the draft, and Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray may be a perfect fit.
A natural leader, Murray has many of the qualities the Patriots covet when it comes to defenders at the second level, including two of the most important: intelligence and versatility.
Though listed as an inside linebacker, this tackling machine (335 in 42 games for the Sooners) showed throughout his college time he could make an impact rushing the passer, defending the run, or dropping into coverage. He consistently forced his way onto the opponents’ side of the line of scrimmage, making 17 tackles for loss in 2019 alone.
Murray, who had a formal meeting with the Patriots at the NFL Combine, has elite instincts and the lateral quickness to get from sideline to sideline in a heartbeat.
A well-built 6 feet 2 inches, 241 pounds with arms that go on forever (think Kevin McHale, only chiseled), Murray rarely takes false steps, has awesome closing speed, and once he gets to the ball carrier, he’s bringing him down — there’s no breaking free from this guy’s grip.
Murray, who said he models his game after Luke Kuechly and Ray Lewis — he watches highlights of Lewis to get his pregame blood pumping — is a film-room devotee and credits that practice with making him a smarter player.
“I watch between 5-6 hours of tape every day. First guy in the building in the morning with my position coach watching film,’’ he said. “All those things, they pay off and [I’m] able to use them on Saturdays. So, I think my intelligence [is overlooked]. Something that I’m just trying to harp on when I’m in meetings, formal interviews, with teams is just letting guys know, letting guys see how smart I am.’’
Murray has an interesting background. His father is a pastor and his mother is a retired police officer. He has one biological sister and three adopted siblings, all of whom have special needs. They joined the family when he was in the fifth grade. He helped to raise them, and it helped mold him into the person he is today.
Seeing his siblings struggle has given Murray the perspective to never take his gifts for granted.
“It really changed my life, to be honest. When you come into situations like that, you have to be selfless in that situation,’’ he said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that I learned is just how to be truly selfless to be able to help. I think another big lesson that I learned is just being grateful for life. They’re special needs and my two little brothers. One of them, he can’t walk, the other one, he can walk, but both of them can’t talk. And so, it’s just taking advantage of those opportunities to be able to function properly, taking advantage of the opportunity to be able to just speak is just things that make you so grateful.
“Because seeing my little brothers not being able to play sports, it just makes me grateful for what I have and the ability I have. So, it just makes me want to go out there and give my best every time, because literally on an everyday basis I see my two little brothers who can’t do what everybody else can do. So, I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity.’’
Along with his family background, at the combine Murray relayed an incredible personal story.
Last summer while driving home from church, Murray came upon a scene where a woman had collapsed, and her friend was frantically trying to help her. Murray swooped in and came to the rescue.
“I just immediately started CPR … got between 70-80 pumps in, and that’s when I finally got her revived, got her back to breathing. Then shortly after that the paramedics arrived,’’ said Murray, who noted that both women were deaf. “It was just a blessing to be in the right place at the right time and be able to help somebody in need.’’