Steel Valley freshman RB capping special season
The bashful kid slowly walked over to a visitor in the Steel Valley locker room, generating just a touch of emotion while displaying all the respect and humbleness any parent would want in a child.
At 14, DeWayne Murray is young to be playing high school football, let alone starring in it.
The running back enters the final game of his freshman season likely wondering what he can do to top his 325-yard rushing performance one week ago in the Ironmen's 31-21 victory over South Allegheny.
The same goes for Steel Valley coach Rod Steele, a former longtime assistant at Central Catholic.
“I've coached a lot of kids over the years like that,” Steele said. “It's something special when you get to coach them. He's one of those guys. I don't even think the kid gets taped. There's just something about him. ... The kid is just a tough kid. He plays middle linebacker, too.
“What opened my eyes (against South Allegheny) was when he was in the open field and pulled away. I've seen that from him before, but against maybe less talented athletes. They have athletes on the back end. That really struck me. He had another level to him.”
It was Murray's third game of at least 200 yards rushing, bringing his season total to 1,336 yards on 136 carries (9.8 average). He scored on touchdown runs of 37, 70 and 3 yards.
“I'm just trying to get somewhere far,” Murray said after the game.
Murray, whose role increased when senior running back D'Andre Pickens was lost for much of the season with a foot injury, will lead Steel Valley (3-5, 3-4) on Friday night at McGuffey (4-4, 3-4) — two teams out of contention for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs — in their Century Conference finale.
Pickens rushed for nearly 600 yards in Steel Valley's first three games but has played only briefly since suffering the injury.
“What has impressed me about Dwayne is his physicality,” Steele said. “You can't teach that as a football coach. He understands the magnitude of playing sore — at this young age.”
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Murray, whose backfield mate, Tyrone Freeman, added 140 yards rushing last week, is another in a line of impressive players to come through the Steel Valley midget football league. Some of those names include Charlie Batch, Adam Walker, Ed Collington, Lafayette Pitts, James Caldwell, Pickens and Delrece Williams, the WPIAL record-holder for rushing yards in a season with 2,149 in 2010.
“Dwayne just played for us last season,” said Michael “Lefty” Todd, a coach with the youth league. “At Steel Valley, we don't have a freshman team or grade school teams. What happens is the kids go straight to the high school. We try to teach them the fundamentals and the toughness of Western Pennsylvania football.”
Murray apparently has gotten the message.
“When you hear our youth coach comparing this guy to some of those others, you know he's special,” Steele said. “But this guy has something they didn't have. What comes off right away is his maturity at such a young age. I don't want to put a bull's-eye on him, but that puts him at the top of the totem pole.”