INDIANAPOLIS – Before Kenneth Murray can save a linebacker corps, he saved a woman’s life.
Before he can become a face of an NFL franchise, he became the face of love and pride for three special-needs children.
Athletes often are treated like heroes. Murray, the All-American from Oklahoma, is unquestionably a real hero.
The son of a pastor, Murray’s life changed at age 11, when his parents, Kenneth Sr. and Dianna, adopted three special-needs kids. Nyia, who was 8 at the time, Leonard, who was 3, and James, a toddler, have the same disorder in which part of a chromosome is missing genetic material. Today, Nyia is 18, Lennie is 14 and James is almost 10. Nyia knows her ABCs and can read at a second-grade level. Lennie and James can’t even talk.
“My siblings, they are my blood,” Murray said. “Even though they were adopted, they’re my blood and I’d do anything for them.
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“Every time I come home, they can’t talk but they know who I am, they know my voice, they know when I touch them. It’s just really exciting to see when I come home and I say, ‘What’s up James?’ and his face lights up. Or we’re just hanging out, just me and him, and I carry him around. Both of them look like they’re 5 years old. They’re pretty old but they look small, so I carry them around like nothing. That’s what they love the most.”
Life took another unexpected turn in early July. Murray and his girlfriend were coming home from church when a woman ran out of a car to help a woman who was lying on the sidewalk. The CPR training Murray learned as a counselor at the church community center would save a life.
“I immediately park my car in the middle of the street, get out and immediately rush over to the lady and see what's going on,” Murray said. “When I arrived on scene, she was bleeding from the head, completely unconscious, just laying on the ground. The other lady was her friend. She was screaming and yelling at her, trying to get her to wake back up. So that's when I immediately started the CPR, got between 70 to 80 pumps in. That's when I finally got her revived, got her back to breathing.”
With his car parked in the middle of the road and with no desire to be noticed for his heroic act, Murray left after paramedics arrived. Two days later, Mike Houck, a member of Oklahoma’s athletics communications staff, stopped by Murray’s locker.
“‘Did you give a woman CPR a couple days ago?’” Murray recalled. “I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He was like, ‘The kid with the school newspaper was driving by and happened to see a big human being that looked like you giving CPR to a woman.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that was me.’”
Of course, the NFL values speed and production more than acts of heroism. Murray has that covered, too. As a junior in 2019, Murray was an All-American with team-leading totals of 102 tackles and 17 tackles for losses. He added four sacks and four pass breakups. In three seasons, he piled up 335 tackles and 37 tackles for losses. At 6-foot-2 1/2 and 241 pounds and with sideline-to-sideline speed, he’s an obvious first-round target for linebacker-hungry teams such as the Green Bay Packers.
Wherever he winds up playing in the NFL, he’ll be pushed by the thoughts of three special-needs siblings, two of whom aren’t even capable of saying they love him.
“One of the things I learned is how to be truly selfless. Another big lesson I learned is being grateful for life,” Murray said. “My two little brothers, one of them, he can’t walk; the other one, he can walk but both of them can’t talk. It’s taking advantage of those opportunities to be able to function properly, taking advantage of those opportunities to speak. Those are things that make you so grateful. Seeing my little brothers not being able to play sports, it makes me grateful for what I have and the ability that I have. It makes me want to go out there and give my best every time because, literally, on an every-day basis, I see my two little brothers who can’t do what everybody else can do.”
“They bring so much joy in my life because they’re so joyful with their life,” he continued. “It just makes you think and makes you become even more grateful. You see children like that who are going through those type of situations, they can find happiness in their situation so it really leaves no excuse for anybody else to not be able to find happiness in their situation.”