As Kenneth Murray spoke at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, some listeners simply stared at him, or exchanged looks of astonishment listening to his life story.
Murray's podium session was captivating. The inside linebacker from Oklahoma is much more than a talented player who has been linked to the Ravens in several mock drafts. He helped save a woman's life last year by performing CPR. He has three siblings with special needs, including two brothers who are unable to speak. His father is a pastor. His mother is a retired police officer.
When Murray interviews with teams at the Combine, it's difficult to imagine that he won't thoroughly impress scouts, coaches, and general managers with his life story and charismatic personality. He may be off the board by the time the Ravens pick at No. 28. But if he's still available, Murray can imagine himself in a Ravens uniform following Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown Jr., Marquise Brown and Ben Powers – recent Baltimore draft picks who all played at Oklahoma. Murray said they have all told him how much he would love playing for the Ravens.
"They said the atmosphere there (in Baltimore) is special," Murray said.
So is Murray. He and Patrick Queen of LSU are generally regarded as the top inside linebackers in this year's draft class, and NFL Network analyst Charles Davis believes Murray and Queen both suit Baltimore.
"There's no question they could both be a great fit for the Ravens because of their style of play," Davis said. "As things stand right now, I'm more bullish on Murray having a chance of being there than Queen, just because I think Queen's got a little bit more size to him."
Murray believes he's the better player and he views the Combine as a chance to separate himself.
"I'm looking to come out here and dominate and put my best foot forward," Murray said. "My passion for the game, that's something you're going to see a lot when you watch me play ball. I have a hunter's mentality. Every time I see somebody with the ball, I'm trying to hunt them down. Football is not recreation to me. It's a lifestyle."
Highlights of Oklahoma games last season often featured Murray flashing into the picture to bring down ballcarriers.
Putting Murray in the center of Baltimore's defense could help offset the loss of four-time Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley to the New York Jets in free agency last year. Murray made the defensive calls for Oklahoma's defense, so he's used to assuming a leadership role.
Off the field, people around the Oklahoma program rave about the kind of person Murray is. He doesn't wear a cape or change clothes in a phone booth, but sometimes it sounds that way. The most publicized heroic deed by Murray occurred last July in Norman, Okla. when he and his girlfriend were returning home from church and stopped at an intersection. They noticed a woman on the ground unconscious, and another woman trying to assist her. As a child, Murray was a counselor at a community center where he was required to learn CPR. That skill would come in handy when he stopped his car and revived a woman who wasn't breathing.
"Just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Murray said. "I finally got her revived, back to breathing. Shortly after that the paramedics arrived. I intended for this not to get out in the media. I did what I did, and immediately tried to get out of there before anybody saw me. Two days later, our media director asked me if I gave a woman CPR. 'A kid with the school newspaper saw a big guy who looked like you giving CPR,' he said. I was like, 'Yeah, that was me.'''
Murray has also stepped up for his two younger brothers and a sister who suffer from a genetic condition that causes delays in mental and physical development. Murray's parents, Kenneth Sr. and Dianna, adopted the children when Murray was in the fifth grade, and he has served as their doting big brother ever since. Murray said his 18-year-old sister, Nyia, is not as impacted by the genetic condition as his two younger brothers, James and Lenny.
"They can't talk, but they know who I am, they know my voice, they know when I touch them," Murray said. "When I come home, James, his face lights up. He's 11, my other little brother is 14 (Lenny), but both of them look like they're five years old. I carry them around. That's what they love the most, that I'm big enough to carry them around.
"My mom and dad go through 15 to 20 doctor's appointments a week. I tell people I feel like I've raised three kids already, just having to be the oldest of all of them, having to help my parents. It really changed my life. You have to be selfless in that situation. That's one of the biggest things I learned, how to be truly selfless and help others. Seeing my brothers be unable to play sports makes me grateful for what I have. I'd do anything for them."
Already one of the Combine's most interesting players, Murray is focused on improving his draft stock as he prepares for his NFL journey. If he's the next Oklahoma player drafted by the Ravens, Murray will be very happy.
"My favorite player was Ray Lewis," Murray said. "I watch Ray Lewis highlights before every game, still to this day. Just try to pattern my leadership after Ray Lewis, try to pattern my play after Ray Lewis. It would obviously be a huge honor to play for Baltimore, given what Ray and the rest of the linebackers there have done."