A New Jersey Irish kid with an uncle who won an All-Star with Monaghan has won a contract as a kicker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL.
Patrick Murray from Fordham University has told website TheScore.ie that he is just as comfortable talking about the All-Ireland football semi-finals than he is discussing the SuperBowl.
The 23-year-old is the son of former Monaghan player Aidan Murray while his uncle Ciaran, now physio to the Irish soccer team, won an Ulster title, a National League and an All-Star with the Farney County.
Patrick regularly kicked Gaelic football with his cousins in his summer family trips to Ireland and was tempted to go to college in Dublin.
But Fordham in New York landed the talented kicker who led the NCAA in his final season in 2012 with 25 field goals and averaged 46 yards per punt to rank second.
However Murray failed to attract a single training camp offer from the NFL and eventually attended numerous open try-outs in a bid to land a contract.
The New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers both liked what they saw with the Florida franchise offering a contract earlier this year.
Murray told The Score: “I signed a futures contract in January and joined the training camp this summer.”
Despite the presence of record breaker Connor Barth on the Tampa roster, the most accurate field goal kicker in Tampa’s history, Murray was announced as the Buccaneers’ starting kicker for the 2014 NFL season last week.
He added: “It was very hard in training camp to kick against a veteran like Connor who has had so much success in this league. He pushed me every day and I became a better player because of that competition.”
Murray explained to the Irish website that the kickers are just as important to the team as the more physical guys.
He said: “You can’t just rely on a strong leg any more. You still have to go to all your meetings, you still have to make yourself strong.
“You have to be an athlete to be a kicker in this league but you’re also there to do a specific job and that’s to put the ball between the posts. That requires focus and mental strength as well because you don’t know at what stage you’ll be called upon.
“I suppose I come from a different background in playing GAA so I believe you can’t get away with just being a big guy with a big leg. Of course you need to work on your core and lower body strength but it’s your ability to focus on the posts and put the ball through them that will set you apart.”
Irish rugby star Ronan O’Gara and four-time Super Bowl winner, Adam Vinatieri have motivated Murray.
He said: “There’s a great quote from Adam that says ‘Keep your head down, the crowd will let you know if you’ve made it or not.'
“And when I first started, I went on YouTube and watched as many clips of Ronan O’Gara as I could, how he prepared for the kick, doing the same thing every time. I’ve tried to bring that into my game though I have a lot less time to kick than he did.”
Although born and raised in New Jersey, Murray knows where he comes from.
He admitted: “I feel like Ireland is my home and even thought about going to college there.”
His aims for the season are simple. He said: “Our destination is Phoenix in February, it’s the Super Bowl. We’re preparing like we’re going to get there. For me personally, getting a ring is always the number one goal but making all my kicks this year and helping my team would mark a good season.”
The season opens Sunday with a first career start against the Carolina Panthers.
Murray said: “It would be nice to kick a 50+ yard field goal but if I can kick six extra points that means we’ve scored six touchdowns and I’d take that as well.”