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Jimmy Murray ’17 Works His Way to 2019 AFC Championship Game

The offensive lineman's never-say-die work ethic propelled him from Fitton Field to playing for the Kansas City Chiefs
April 18th, 2019 by 

Jim Murray in a Chiefs'jersey
Murray made the Chiefs' active roster in October and played in his first NFL game two weeks later. Photo by Steve Sanders

Jimmy Murray ’17 sees opportunity where others see stop signs. He first worked his way onto his high school football team and later onto the Holy Cross football team as a walk-on. In 2018, he beat the odds once more, going from undrafted free agent to earning a place on the practice squad of the Kansas City Chiefs and, ultimately, the active roster.

In January 2019, the 6’5″ 304-pound rookie offensive lineman became the first Holy Cross graduate to make it to an AFC Championship game since 1989.

Though the New England Patriots beat the Chiefs, 37- 31, and Murray did not play in the game, “It was surreal just being there,” he says. “In my sophomore year at Holy Cross, I was sitting in the 300-level seats [at Gillette Stadium] and saw the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Then, a couple years later, I’m going up against [Patriots quarterback Tom] Brady.”

Born into a football-loving family in Chicago, Murray rooted for the Bears, collected football cards and played the game with his four brothers in their back yard. At Loyola Academy High School in Wilmette, Illinois, he grinded it out at practices until he finally convinced his coach to give him a spot on the team.

“During senior year, I got my shot,” he remembers. “And it was the same way in college, too. I knew as long as there was a chance, I would do everything in my power to make it. I never put myself down. My philosophy was: Outwork the guy in front of you.”

At Holy Cross, Murray walked onto Fitton Field hoping to land a spot with the Crusaders. His hard work not only convinced coaches to add him to the roster, but he also started each game during his four-year career and was named captain during his senior season.

His never-say-die attitude drove him, yet he also credits Crusaders offensive line coach Chris Smith ’09 for helping him meet his goals.

“Coach Smith did a great job helping me focus on the fundamentals,” Murray says. “He is very passionate about what he does and made me want to do everything in my power to make him happy. He loves Holy Cross and came in every day with a great attitude.

“And [Chiefs offensive line coach] Andy Heck taught me what it takes to be a professional in the NFL. He helped me step up my game big-time.”

 Murray

Murray was a four-year starter for the Crusaders before joining the Chiefs

Smith remembers Murray as a smart, athletic player who didn’t need a lot of drills to get everything right: “Jimmy led by example and was well respected by his team for his work ethic.”

Murray learned more than just football at Holy Cross, graduating with a major in economics and a minor in Chinese. “It was a tough school, but it prepared me for what I was going to do in life,” he says. “I use those skills when I’m taking notes in the film room to help me prepare for the next game, so I can hit the ground running.”

After graduation, Murray went undrafted, but he refused to give up his dream of playing in the NFL. A few days after the NFL draft, the Chiefs called to see if he was interested in joining the practice squad. Murray gave that role his all and was promoted to the active roster in late October.

He laughs for a moment, remembering the first time he entered a game: Nov. 11, 2018, against the Arizona Cardinals. “The first play, I was put on my back,” he says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ But after that first play, I got back into the NFL mode.”

The biggest difference between playing at the college and pro level, he notes, is “the speed of the guys. In college, you’re either going against big dudes or fast dudes. When you get to the NFL, you’re going against big and fast dudes.”

Playing on the offensive line can be a thankless position — there are no statistics to compare yourself to others — but Murray is OK with that.

“Having no stats is a good thing, because you never let numbers get your head too big,” he says. “You’re not getting any glamour. You’re your own critic and always looking for ways to get better.”

His satisfaction comes when youngsters ask him to sign his football card or when he visits schools to give motivational talks. “I visited my grade school and told the kids I was once in their shoes,” he says. “I told them whatever you want to do, just go for it. And at the end of the day, you become what you believe in.”


Written by Benjamin Gleisser for the Spring 2019 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine
Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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