NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It's no wonder DeMarco Murray took flight on his first touchdown with the Titans.
He took a leap of faith in joining the Titans – and embracing Nashville sight unseen -- to begin with.
And he's glad he did.
"I would say it has exceeded my expectations,'' Murray said of the Titans, and the city. "We have an unbelievable team, an unbelievable coaching staff and the biggest thing to me is coach (Mike) Mularkey. He is a hell of a coach and an even better guy, and that is not just him but every coach in the organization, there's a little piece of him they carry with him.
"They are just great people, and those are the kinds of coaches you want to do anything for – you'll run through the wall for them. And the camaraderie with the guys on the team, everyone talks to each other, the offensive guys and the defensive guys. I have never been inside a locker room where it is so integrated. That was a huge plus for me, and it lets me come out of my shell a little more and be a little more vocal with the guys."
Back in March, the Titans traded with the Eagles to land Murray, the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year with the Cowboys in 2014.
Murray has already made an impact with the Titans. In two games, he has 131 yards on 25 carries (a 5.2-yard average), and he also leads the team with 12 catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns, including that acrobatic dive into the end zone against the Vikings in Week One to finish off a six-yard touchdown catch.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson negotiated the trade to land Murray, who spent one season with the Eagles. The trade might've never gotten off the ground without Murray making it known to his agent, Nashville's Bill Johnson, and the Titans, he wanted to play in Tennessee.
Murray admits that was kind of a leap of faith. Until the day he showed up at Saint Thomas Sports Park following the trade, he'd been to Nashville just once, and that was to play in a game at Nissan Stadium while with the Cowboys in 2014. He was in and out, and spent the day he landed in the hotel.
After just seven months in the city, and with the Titans, Murray said it's been a good fit -- for many reasons.
"I knew of Nashville, and heard a lot about it,'' Murray said. "Of course I knew all about the country music side, but I didn't know too much about it the city. I just figured it would be nice.
"But this is a place I saw myself being. I have been in the spotlight for a long time and I knew coming (to Nashville) was a different market and that is something that kind of excited me. It's a place where I can focus on football and focus on this team and focus on helping us win games.
"Nashville is big, but it's small at the same time,'' Murray continued. "People have been so nice. I love the city, and it has been a dream come true to be here."
A third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2011, Murray was the league's Offensive Player of the Year in 2014 after leading the NFL and setting Cowboys franchise records in rushing yards (1,845), and scrimmage yards (2,261). Murray scored 13 touchdowns on 392 carries in 2014, an average of 115.3 yards per game. He posted 12 100-yard games in 2014.
In his lone season with the Eagles, Murray ran for 702 yards and six touchdowns on just 193 carries.
When the Titans traded for Murray back in March, ESPN's John Clayton called it the best move of the offseason in the NFL.
"The reason is he's an I-formation back, so now they'll put in an I-formation offense in with Marcus Mariota taking snaps from center and it will work out so much better for DeMarco, and for Mariota,'' Clayton said.
"Having a good running game makes things so much easier on Marcus, because now all of the pressure doesn't fall on him. It was a big move."
Former NFL coach Jon Gruden, also an analyst with ESPN, said earlier this month Murray's a good get for the Titans.
"I've always liked Murray a lot,'' Gruden said. "I think he can run it and catch it, and he is outstanding picking up blitzes and he gets better as the game unfolds. He can finish you."
Titans running backs coach Sylvester Croom knew of Murray before the team traded for him in March, but he didn't know him personally.
Croom has been blown away by Murray's ability, attitude, and leadership skills.
And Croom, an NFL assistant 24 seasons and a former head coach at Mississippi State, has been around a few running backs in his day.
"Let me tell you something,'' Croom said of Murray. "This guy is a good football player, but he is a better human being than he is a football player. His professionalism, and his work ethic. I feel really fortunate to be able to work with him. I'm telling you, he's a coach's dream.
"He's not a boisterous person. First of all, he leads by example. But when something needs to be said, he says it. He does things the right way. He is not about tearing people down, he is about building guys up. He is a great, great pro, and he is going to make this team better. Really, he already has."
Murray said he's been comfortable with his new surroundings. He bought a home in Franklin, and this summer decided to host his first football camp to benefit the DeMarco Murray Foundation. Roughly 120 kids took part in his camp, which will help raise money for chronically ill children. Murray's foundation has helped underprivileged kids in the past, but he said he also wants to partner with a local hospital to raise money for chronically ill children in town.
On the field and in the locker room, he's made a good impression on his teammates as well.
"Watching him before he got here, I knew he had that attitude that he's not going to be stopped,'' tight end Delanie Walker said. "And that's how he is. He is all business, and he doesn't mess around. He's kind of like me in that we have a similar structure on doing our job and understanding what we are here for. Since he has been here he's been making plays, and I'm glad we have him."
Looking back, Murray said he's glad things worked out.
Now in his sixth NFL season, Murray is ready to do his part to lead the Titans.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who saw Murray run for 4,526 yards and 28 touchdowns in four seasons in Dallas, predicted success for Murray in Tennessee when speaking to Titans Online earlier in the offseason. So far, he's been right on. "I have a great deal respect for DeMarco,'' Garrett said. "He was a really good player for us during his four years with the Cowboys. I have great respect for him as a player, great respect for him as a man.
"He is going to do a great job in Tennessee. Mike Mularkey is an outstanding coach, and I think he is going to fit in that system really well. It's a good fit for both the player and the team."