NASHVILLE, Tenn. —DeMarco Murray's photo still hangs on the wall at the 504 Barber Shop just outside of Dallas.
Former NFL running back Billy Sims, a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma in 1978 who was voted to three Pro Bowls while with the Detroit Lions in the early 1980s, was there recently. Sims said the new Titans running back remains a popular man in the area.
"What a player,'' Sims said of Murray, a former Sooner himself. "The things he did with the Cowboys, I was shocked Dallas let him go. And a lot of folks in Texas are still mad about that. I hear them still talking about it. The Titans are getting a great player in DeMarco, and a good citizen, too.
"I am happy he's at a place again where he can prove what he can do with the team."
A third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2011, Murray was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year after leading the NFL and setting Cowboys franchise records in rushing yards (1,845), and scrimmage yards (2,261) in 2014. 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.
After signing with the Eagles last offseason, Murray ran for 702 yards and six touchdowns on just 193 carries.
The Titans traded for Murray last month.
"I saw him play in Norman (Oklahoma) and Dallas,'' Sims said of Murray. "It was the wrong system for him in Philadelphia. I'm glad he's in a better place to succeed now. He has to have the right pieces around him. But he's going to do his job."
Sims and four other Heisman Trophy winners were in town last week for a football clinic for youth at Nissan Stadium in conjunction with the Heisman Trophy Trust and Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee. As part of Nissan's ongoing collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and the Heisman Trust, the Heisman Trophy winners joined a Habitat for Humanity construction crew to build a new home in Nashville.
In addition to Sims, Heisman Trophy winners Tim Brown (1987), Mark Ingram (2009) and George Rogers (1980) also participated in the two-day event, along with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Like Sims, running backs Ingram and Rogers also believe Murray will be in a better position to be successful in Tennessee.
"I think it's a good system for him,'' said Ingram, who starred at Alabama and now plays for the New Orleans Saints. "I know (the Titans) run a lot of power, a lot of running downhill, and I think that is what DeMarco thrives on. I know they have a big front here, and I think that will allow him to bounce back and have a big year."
Running back DeMarco Murray arrives at Saint Thomas Sports Park to sign his contract. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
Added Rogers: "The Titans are not far from getting in it, and with a back like DeMarco Murray, he's going to help them get there. DeMarco and Marcus will make each other better. Philly didn't give him the ball enough. Now he is going to be here, and he is going to get the ball. He can help."
Sims, who makes home between Oklahoma and Texas, said he pulls for Murray.
Sims ran for over 4,000 at Oklahoma, and he ran for over 5,100 yards in five seasons with the Lions.
"DeMarco kind of reminds me of myself a little bit,'' Sims said. "He uses power when he has to, and he doesn't take a lot of direct hits unless he has to. And he is always going forward trying to get the extra yards."
New Titans RB DeMarco Murray debuts his #29 jersey. (Photos: Terry Wyatt)