Latavius Murray has never been this close to home in the decade-plus he's spent in the NFL.
Growing up in Nedrow, NY, a town outside the heart of Syracuse, Murray has a reinvigorated look about him since joining the Bills this offseason.
"It means a lot to be so close to home and so close to where I grew up and played childhood ball," Murray said after a Bills training camp practice in Rochester. "It's just a full circle experience."
Murray, 33, is a well-versed traveler in the NFL running back landscape. At 1,481 career carries, he's received 543 of them with the Raiders, 356 with the Vikings, 303 with the Saints, 119 with the Ravens and 106 with the Broncos.
At this stage of his career, Murray is an outlier among modern day NFL running backs. In 2022, he was the only player 32 or older to receive at least 150 carries. His 6,252 total rushing yards since 2014 rank fifth most among active RBs, joining the likes of Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and Zeke Elliott.
"He's a master of his craft," teammate Damien Harris said of Murray. "It's really eye-opening and inspiring to all of us."
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Murray has a mammoth frame that makes it punishing for a defender to try to bring him down when he's moving full speed. That much was evident in the Bills preseason opener on Saturday. Afterwards, Kyle Allen described Murray as someone who "runs the hell out of the ball."
"We know that the running back position is a physical position, and it's a rare case that you get guys playing you know, over three or four years," Murray explained. "I get a lot of questions about how I've been able to play the running back position for so long."
So, what's the secret sauce? Truthfully, Murray admitted, there is no magical explanation, just attention to detail.
"Just knowing your body, being aware of your body, knowing what it needs, knowing what it doesn't. Sleeping, getting rest and recovery," he said. "Those things have been a big part of the reason why I've been able to play so long."
Since arriving in Buffalo during free agency, the Syracuse native has put those habits into practice every day. Murray has been a consistent performer during Bills training camp, showcasing his tenacious running style and his smooth hands out of the backfield catching the ball. Against the Colts during preseason, Murray led the Bills in the first half with 39 total yards (21 receiving, 18 rushing) on eight touches.
"The way he still comes out competes like down after down after down. It's inspiring," Harris said.
With the Bills having a young running back room (Harris turned 26 in February and James Cook turns 24 in September), having someone like Murray in the locker room has been an important addition.
"He's had a good leadership presence and influence on our football team," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "I think it's great when you can get a local guy that takes a lot of pride in Western New York and what the Bills mean."
Being so close to home for the 2023 season also means he'll have plenty of family at Bills games in Orchard Park this year.
"My mom still lives in Syracuse — grandparents, uncles, a lot of family," Murray laughed. "So I look forward to being near them."
Murray's wife Shauntay has been a frequent guest at St. John Fisher during the Bills training camp and the couple are expecting their fifth child together this year. Murray is savoring every minute he's able to be closer to his family.
"Every year is a blessing. It's really just an opportunity and just something to really appreciate. It's a hard thing to do to get to this level," he said.
Being only a few hours away from where he grew up also means Murray has a platform bigger than ever for his community efforts. On May 6, just five days after signing with the Bills, Murray hosted the Inaugural Jon Diaz Community Center Foundation Gala in Syracuse to raise funds to build a community center in Nedrow.
The new community center is named after his friend Jon Diaz who was shot and killed in 2016 in Syracuse. The gala raised over $100,000 to support his efforts.
One day after a Bills practice at St. John Fisher, a close connection from Syracuse surprised Murray on the field. Legendary former Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim and his wife Juli were in attendance that day and wanted to let Murray know how proud they are of him for giving back to the Syracuse area.
Jim and Juli received a phone call from Murray during the 2019 Men's Final Four and he expressed his desire to start to give back to the community. The Boeheim's, who provide support for kids in the Central New York area through the Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation, were eager to lend Murray a helping hand. The Boeheim's donated to the Jon Diaz Community Center earlier this year.
"(Jon) loved kids. He actually worked with kids before he passed. And I thought this was the perfect way to honor him," Murray told Juli on the practice field at St. John Fisher.
As the Bills near the start of the regular season, the journeyman running back is attacking every day with the same fight and passion he's had since his rookie year. With more football behind him than in front of him, Murray has a special appreciation for what this season could hold.
"It means the world to me to be able to be playing in a Buffalo Bills uniform. The only thing I want to do is win," Murray said. "I want to bring a championship home."
Check out photos from Bills Mafia in the first preseason game of 2023 at Highmark Stadium. This gallery is presented by SnapDragon Apples.