Before he ever kicked a field goal in the NFL, Pat Murray was just another mad GAA kid growing up in Bergen County, New Jersey, playing football for his local Rockland GAA club.
With Rockland’s Center of Excellence as the backdrop, Murray and his father Aidan spoke to the Irish Voice about his NFL career so far, growing up playing Gaelic football in New York, and supporting his beloved county Monaghan.
“I remember one game I was taking a sideline ball and I think we had Jimmy O’Flynn in the forwards that game. He just took off and started running straight to goal so I just hit it with the outside of my foot and it curled right into his hands,” Pat said.
“Jimmy took it and put it into the back of the net. It had to be a 50-60-yard kick. That was one of the coolest memories I had playing the game.”
Pat Murray was always a confident kid. Never cocky and never carried an ego or chip on his shoulder.
He was, for lack of a better word, a great kid. Always friendly, always polite, but absolutely ruthless when it came to kicking an O’Neill’s. “Marty Hanley and Francie Gargen helped me out when I first started playing with Gaelic with Rockland. They took me in and put me into positions where I was given a lot of responsibility,” said Pat.
“They gave me a lot of opportunities to kick the ball distances. It helped with my leg strength and I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do if they didn’t give me those opportunities.” When Pat started playing for the Rockland men’s team it was evident that this was no regular kid kicking a football. In a game at Gaelic Park, Rockland were playing in a championship match. Just before halftime, Rockland received a free about 25 yards out from their own goal. With seconds on the clock, Rockland manager Noel O’Connell yelled over, “Have a go yourself, Paddy.”
As players started to walk off the field as the halftime horn was about to blow, Murray launched a ball so hard and so high that it just seemed to keep on going. Straight off his boot, 80 yards from goal, and over the bar with room to spare.
“I don’t remember that kick precisely, but I definitely remember many times I’ve done that,” he said. “I was always in the half back line so I always got the chance to hit this scores from distance.”
After two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pat, a graduate of Fordham University in 2013, is starting this coming season with a new organization, the Cleveland Browns. Coming off a tough knee injury that required surgery and a lengthy rehab stint, he knows the task to make the opening day squad will be tough challenge, but a challenge he is more than up for.
Pat cites his GAA background as the source of his commitment to hard work. “He’s just got a level of pure ignorance in him that’s a positive thing rather than a negative,” Aidan said. “We’ll be out practicing field goals and he might miss a few and I’ll say its time to go home. Pat will just say ‘Give me the bleeping ball.’ Its that hard work – that pure ignorance – that drives him to be better.”
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Pat will report to the Cleveland Browns training camp on July 26, and it’s an opportunity he’s relishing.
“I’m so excited. I’m excited to go there and play in front of the fans. They’re loud, they get after opposing players. When I played there as a visitor with the Bucs, they got after me. I’m just excited to go there,” he says.
“To play in front of those kinds of fans – the amount of passion from that city – that blue collar, hard working city, it’s great. I’m just so proud to be a part of that organization.”
On whether he’ll be the football version of LeBron James, Murray is just happy to be part of such a great organization.
“I’m just the kicker. I’ll let someone else on the team lift the Lombardi Trophy, I’ll just be happy to be there and contribute to the group.”
A lot of NFL kickers are known as “soccer style” kickers due to the way they run up to the ball. Pat Murray could be starting a whole new trend – the Gaelic style kicker.
“I guess you could say I have a Gaelic style of kicking an American football. I will take the same amount of steps and make the same type of run up kicking a field goal as I would if I was taking a free off the ground in Gaelic Park,” he says, adding that his Gaelic background also made it easier to transition into American football’s physicality.
“Playing at the Rockland field or in Gaelic Park definitely helped me to make tackles where need be and more importantly to not shy away from the physical side of it,” he says.
What happens when Pat has to explain Gaelic games to his NFL teammates? “I’ve done it so many times. A lot of my coaches will ask because it’s all over my bio and that’s what I’m always talking about,” he says.
“A lot of the players will ask as well and I’ll try and explain it to them. At this point though, I have it down to and if they still don’t get it, I tell them to go on YouTube. When they do see it, they’ll say to me ‘you played that!?’ Maybe it gains you a little more respect but it definitely intrigues them when they do see it.”
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The Rockland GAA is proud to have had Pat within its ranks, and he is proud of his Rockland background.
“It’s incredible what this community has meant to me. The love and support I get from everyone in this community – in the good times and bad, it’s just incredible,” he says.
“I was able to go to the club’s dinner dance this year and that felt really good. I saw people there I hadn’t seen in years and I was fortunate enough to say a few words on what Rockland GAA has meant to me.
“I hope it’s in 20 years, but when my NFL career is over, I hope I can come back here and play for Rockland and be involved in the club. There’s nothing like this community. I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
Here he is in action: