Latavius Murray G’20 knows what it takes to make dreams come true. Through hard work and determination, he has journeyed from the high school football fields of Central New York to a stellar career as an NFL running back. “I understand that every successful moment I’ve had in football has been a dream come true, and I’ve been able to keep a humble mentality about it,” says Murray, now with the Denver Broncos. A free agent this season, he initially joined the New Orleans Saints practice squad—his second stint with the team—and moved into the starting rotation in week four, rushing for a touchdown in the Saints’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings in London. “I’m very hungry and want to play more and do more, but I do, at times, sit back and appreciate what I’ve been able to do coming from where I’ve come from,” he says.
I thought the MBA program was the route for me, so I would learn and educate myself on something that I want to be involved in—whether it’s being an entrepreneur or leading a business.—Latavius Murray G’20
Over the course of nine seasons with four teams—the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, the Vikings, the Saints and Baltimore Ravens—Murray has rushed for more than 5,500 yards, scored 54 total touchdowns and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2015. Along the way, he has dedicated himself to giving back to communities and sharpening his business acumen. With a focus on entrepreneurship, he earned an MBA degree through the Whitman School of Management’s online program. “When I think about having a chance to be successful, you need an opportunity,” he says. “That’s what it’s about—providing opportunities or opening up the minds of the youth or lending a hand in the community when you can. The more you do that, the more it lifts people up, the more it inspires and motivates them.”
Honoring a Longtime Friend
Now, Murray is working to turn another long-held dream into reality. He’s pursuing plans in his hometown of Nedrow, New York, to build the Jon Diaz Community Center, a gathering place for local kids that will feature classrooms, a computer lab, game room and gym. For Murray, who established a nonprofit foundation for the center, it’s about providing the town’s youth with the opportunities he didn’t have. Growing up, he loved playing basketball and football, but no facility for youth activities existed there. He and his friends often contended with the hassle of arranging rides to head into the City of Syracuse to play sports at the Boys & Girls Club and other sites. “I’ve always dreamed about having a community center and always thought this should happen,” he says. “I never thought I’d be the one to make it happen.”
The center is also Murray’s way to create a living legacy in honor of his longtime friend Jonathan Diaz, who often accompanied him on those trips to play sports. Diaz died tragically in 2016. “His name will be remembered,” Murray says. “The center’s going to impact people in a positive way, and I think he would definitely be proud. This is a huge, huge way to do it, so that gives me a lot of peace—and a lot of motivation to make it happen because I know it’s something he would want to do.”
Murray—who says he’d love to break ground on the center in 2023—cites the MBA program for improving his knowledge of business-related matters, saying it helped him learn how to ask the right questions, weigh opportunities, make informed decisions and bring together the right people to make things happen. He’s drawn on the experience in pursuing his vision for the center as he navigates through the approval process with various government entities and organizations. He also knows nothing beats hands-on experience. “Whatever you do, whether it’s this community center or a business venture, you learn from sticking your nose in it and doing it, and I’m still learning as I go through this process, which is really cool,” he says. “The MBA program helped my overall knowledge on how I approach any business opportunities.”
I’ve always dreamed about having a community center and always thought this should happen. I never thought I’d be the one to make it happen.—Latavius Murray G’20
Murray’s initial attraction to the program grew out of a respect and admiration for entrepreneurs, whether it was bringing an idea to life or running a company. “I thought the MBA program was the route for me, so I would learn and educate myself on something that I want to be involved in—whether it’s being an entrepreneur or leading a business,” he says. Amid his grueling NFL schedule, Murray appreciated the program’s flexibility, allowing him to take classes when he was training during the off-season, though a couple playoff games crossed into the start of spring semesters on him. Even then, he got a kick out of classmates wishing him well in the playoffs. He was also especially fond of the course Foundations of Entrepreneurship taught by Professor Ken Walsleben. “I just loved this class,” he says. “For one, because he challenged me, but also we learned a lot in there.”
Rushing into the NFL
Murray, who lives in Florida with his wife and four children, was a three-sport star athlete at Onondaga Central High School, where he twice earned all-state first-team accolades and was New York’s 2007-08 Gatorade Football Player of the Year. As a running back at the University of Central Florida (UCF), he collected Conference USA Championship and Liberty Bowl MVP honors in 2010 and was named an all-conference first-team selection. In September, Murray, who earned a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal/organizational communication, was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame. He will also be inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in November. “Once I started playing football, I realized, even at a young age, that I was pretty good and much better than the other kids, and I wanted to keep doing it,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I got to college and had success where I thought seriously about playing at the next level.”
My mentality is to keep working hard and try to be the player that I am. I’ve worked hard and tried to stay humble through all the ups and downs and the success that I’ve had, because it’s literally what’s kept me playing this long, and it’s what got me there.—Latavius Murray G’20
Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Raiders, Murray was sidelined his rookie season recovering from ankle surgery. Since then, he’s proven to be one of the most durable running backs in the league. According to CBS Sports, he’s played in 107 games since 2015, while no other running back has appeared in more than 100. He’s averaged a sturdy 4.2 yards per carry and is ready to keep pounding it out on the gridiron. He listens to his body—his “moneymaker,” he says—and rejects the aged-out label that gets thrown around the league. “My mentality is to keep working hard and try to be the player that I am,” he says. “I’ve worked hard and tried to stay humble through all the ups and downs and the success that I’ve had, because it’s literally what’s kept me playing this long, and it’s what got me there.”
Throughout his career, Murray—who’s known to friends and fans by the nickname “Tay Train”—has been active in the Syracuse area and other communities where he’s lived. With friend and fellow former Onondaga High legend Mike Hart—who preceded Murray in the Tigers’ backfield (2000-03) and holds the national high school record for career rushing touchdowns (204)—Murray established the Mike Hart and Tay Train Foundation. They’ve hosted football and soccer academies, appeared at clinics and offered Challenger basketball for children with disabilities. This summer, Murray partnered with former Syracuse University basketball player Eric Devendorf ’15 for a Sneaks and Cleats giveaway for City of Syracuse middle and high school students.
Murray knows kids look up to athletes and fondly remembers his experiences meeting the likes of Hart and former Orange star athletes like Etan Thomas ’00, Preston Shumpert ’02 and Damien Rhodes ’07. “That goes a long way because you just never forget those interactions,” he says. “I’ve always understood the kind of impact an older adult can have on kids and try to remember that. I’ve never been a huge talker, but to lead by example, smile, laugh, have fun, that’s more than enough.”
Murray’s sense of motivation and community run deep—and using his personal success to create opportunities for others seems to reflect his thought about suiting up in the NFL. “I’ll give them all I got,” he says.