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NFL star Latavius Murray visits Cortland

Dan Lyon/multimedia intern

Minnesota Vikings’ running back Latavius Murray addresses the crowd during his stop in Cortland on Thursday.

The “Tay Train” was back in his home station: Central New York.

Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray stopped in Cortland on Thursday, giving young fans the chance to meet the NFL standout. John McNerney, the director of the Cortland Youth Bureau, met Murray during an event at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard recently. He asked if Murray would be interested in swinging through Cortland sometime to speak with the kids here. A few days later, Murray called McNerney. “He said he could stop in Cortland on his way to New York City,” McNerney said. “It was right place at the right time.”

Some of the local kids were running football drills with coaches when Murray arrived just after 10:30 a.m. The kids were ushered into the park’s Burch Building and shown a video profile on Murray’s journey to the NFL.

He was a Gatorade Football Player of the Year recipient while playing high school football at Onondaga Central in Nedrow, went on to play college ball at the University of Central Florida for four years and was subsequently drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

During his professional career, he was voted to the 2015 Pro Bowl and was a member of a 13-win Vikings team that played in the NFC Championship game last season.

However, all those accolades and the fame that came with them haven’t made “Tay” any less humble. Murray makes it a point to reach out to kids in Central New York whenever he comes home, hoping to inspire and motivate them.

“I’d like to make an impact everywhere, obviously,” he said. “Why not start where I came from, where the kids can relate to me?”

After the video, Murray gave a small speech outside and answered questions from attendees of all ages. When asked if there have been moments he wanted to give up, Murray was candid.

“I’ve wanted to give up a lot of times, at all different times in my career,” he said. Through those tough times, Murray’s mother would keep him focused by telling him to look towards the future.

Once the Q&A was over, Murray signed autographs and posed for pictures for the well over 100 fans that attended. He signed many of the usual items: shirts, jerseys, footballs and even one boy’s forehead. Murray’s friends talked with many of the attendees and even played a game of basketball with teenagers while he was busy. Local resident Mike Smiley was quite happy that a professional football player made his way to Cortland.

“It’s really good to see people come back to town like that,” Smiley said, stressing the important message it sends to children. “It gives these kids the motivation to keep playing; I hope we get more of them here.”

When the autograph signing was over, Murray served as the base in a human pyramid for another photo and said his goodbyes to friends both old and new.

The “Tay Train” may have only been in Cortland for an hour, but the chance for local kids and fans to meet him will be a memory they cherish for a lifetime.

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