Leading From The Trenches
By Maggie Pruitt
Special to GoHolyCross.com
James Murray truly represents what it means to dedicate everything you have to a sport. Hard work and commitment have helped Murray transition from freshman walk-on to fifth-year senior captain.
Murray has led the Crusaders as an integral part of the offensive line since 2014 and has protected quarterback Peter Pujals since their high school days together. But football was not always his college dream.
He did not envision a five-year collegiate football career as an underclassman in high school. In fact, Murray didn’t think he would be a college football player at all.
“College football wasn’t really something I looked into until senior year of high school,” Murray said. “First and foremost, I was looking to go somewhere for the academics.”
Despite playing football since the fourth grade, the Wilmette, Ill., native never thought about a collegiate career.
“I was kind of small my entire life and then just randomly had a growth spurt throughout the course of high school and had to switch positions a few times,” Murray said.
Murray didn’t play on the offensive line until his sophomore year at Loyola Academy, and he has played several different positions along the line for the Crusaders. He started seven games at right guard during the 2014 season, then took over as the starting center for every game in 2015 and 2016. After earning second team All-Patriot League honors at center last year, Murray made the move to left tackle this fall.
Both fifth-year seniors and captains, Murray and Pujals grew up together in Illinois and have played on the same football field for nine years. Because they have played together for so long, Pujals knows Murray is going to have his back – literally.
“I really liked having him at center, but then when he moved to left tackle, it made me feel safe,” Pujals said. “Also, just for our team, he can get out in space more, be more effective and use more of his athleticism.”
Murray has developed into a player the team looks to for work ethic and leadership. After coming into the program as a walk-on his freshman year, he worked his way into earning a scholarship, then a starting position, and finally a captain’s role.
“I came to Holy Cross as a walk-on and knew I was going to come in and work as hard as I could,” Murray said. “I received an opportunity to start early in my sophomore year, and I have been starting ever since. I ended up earning a scholarship after my sophomore year, which was really big for me and my family.”
For Murray, working hard is his only priority, whether it is in the classroom or on the field, and his character is exemplified through his leadership and commitment to school and football.
“Being a student-athlete for five years has made me realize how lucky I am to do both,” Murray explained. “I am beyond grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had at Holy Cross.”
The roles and responsibilities of student-athletes can be stressful, but Murray has had friends, teammates and coaches by his side throughout his five years to help push him through the difficult times.
“Seeing great leaders come before me, especially Peter, has been so helpful,” Murray said. “And the offensive line is five players, so we have been leading together. Nick Piker and I are the older guys as fifth-year seniors, so he has been really helpful in terms of helping me lead.”
Over the course of five years, Murray has become an essential piece in the Holy Cross offense and has found a second family with the team and school. The game has helped him grow into the person he is today.
“Football teaches you a lot of life lessons,” Murray explained. “There’s a grind to it. I think having teammates here and spending every second with them makes the whole experience so much fun.”
Murray aspires to continue his football career at the next level, but he has one goal in mind before he says goodbye to Fitton Field.
“Winning the Patriot League Championship is something that we have talked about as a team,” Murray said. “Coming back with these fifth-year guys and playing the last four years to get a Patriot League Championship for them would be the ideal way to finish my career at Holy Cross.”
This story originally appeared in the Holy Cross Football Gameday Magazine for the Oct. 7 contest between the Crusaders and Monmouth.