Senior wide receiver O.J. Murdock has traveled a long and bumpy road to where he is. Now, he is ready for his next step — professional football.
Murdock came out of high school as one of the top players in the country and bounced around to different schools due to getting in off-the-field trouble and enduring injuries before landing at Fort Hays.
Now, Murdock has turned his life in the right direction and is the 41st-ranked, draft-eligible wide receiver according to ESPN and the 34th-ranked receiver according to NFLDraftScout.com. He is considered a late round pick in the NFL Draft or a free agent signee.
He participated in the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days across the country, recording a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, a 34.5-inch vertical leap, 9-feet, 8-inch broad jump and 15 bench reps of 225 pounds at the combine.
“It is a storybook,” Murdock said. “It is not ending yet, but it is a fairy tale for the most. I would never have dreamed in a million years that I would be at the combine or having a pro day here or talking to scouts. Every day is a new beginning.”
On Tuesday, he showcased himself at Fort Hays State University’s pro day, catching passes from senior quarterback Mike Garrison with fellow possible draftee Cordarol Scales, who is ranked 73rd according to ESPN.
Thirteen Fort Hays seniors and three Emporia State University seniors participated in the pro day, which was conducted by a personnel official from the Kansas City Chiefs. The drills consisted of vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, three-cone drill and 40-yard dash.
The Fort Hays seniors included Murdock, Scales, Mike Garrison, All-American defensive tackle Jacob Crossman, Seth Blackwell, James Walker, Robert Mercer, Roderick Jenrette, Michael Walker, Wayne Shepheard, Justin Glenn, Colby McKinney and Beau Gadwood.
Newly hired head coach Chris Brown said these pro days are helpful when it comes to inspiring the younger players on the squad.
“It gives them a little incentive,” Brown said. “They know that the pros will come out and visit. They’ll see our campus. They’ll test you.
“It gives them some motivation. Sometimes, they hear it, but when they see it, it means a little more when they see it than when they hear about it.”
Murdock is the most highly touted of all the Fort Hays seniors.
Murdock said he trained for the combine in Pensacola, Fla., at API for about a month and a half. At the combine, he worked out with the best athletes in collegiate football.
“It was a very fun experience,” Murdock said. “Seeing guys that you would see on TV at all the Big D-1 schools. It is a lot of fun, seeing all those guys compete and being around them and talking to them.”
In 2009, Murdock broke the school’s single-season receiving yards record with 1,290 yards, and he participated in the Cactus Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game, and he broke the single-season record.
It was before the Cactus Bowl that Murdock received his email inviting him to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Everything just stopped,” Murdock said. “I had to read it again. I thought maybe this was a notice that I might be getting invited. It was an electrifying experience for me to say the least.”
Fort Hays football players will have their opportunity to audition for first-year head coach Chris Brown when spring football starts Monday.
“I have told them everything is open right now,” Brown said. “Nobody is guaranteed a spot to start. It is a whole new coaching staff. You have to prove yourselves to us now. You have to prove what you can do.”
Players will have to learn a new system on offense and defense, as Brown will transition the offense from a no-huddle spread to pro-style, run-based offense and the defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 4-2-5 scheme.
Brown said the defense would have less of a transformation, because the personnel moves are less of a change. However, the offensive transition could be more difficult, going from a heavy-pass offense to a heavy-run offense.
“Offensively, it might be a little more difficult,” Brown said. “We are going to run the ball quite a bit. That is our whole goal. We are going to run the ball and do some play-action type things.”