If you want to beat the best............

There's an old saying about someone wanting to be the best. You have to beat the best. Yeah, that makes sense. But as Lakeland, Florida DB Antwon Murray will tell you, there's a little something more. You've got to be able to watch the best too. Watch, learn, analyze, and when it's all said and done, you know what the best do and how they do it. After that? Bring every one of them on. That's what is making Murray a very popular DB nowadays, Nebraska just one of his expanding list of offers.

If you are close to six foot tall can jump through the building, that usually says "defensive back" to some. Throw in sub-4.5 speed and you are getting even closer. Throw in five interceptions from last season, and the label as one of the best cornerbacks in the talent-rich state of Florida, that about seals it: you are definitely a good DB.

But one of the best?

That's a matter of perspective, trying to say someone is better than everyone else at that position, especially in the state of Florida. Putting out around 300 Division 1-A kids a year, to say that you are one of the best if not the best at your position, that's a heck of a remark.

That's what others are saying about Murray, though, and not necessarily him saying that himself. But you know that's where he wants to be. "Everyone wants to be the best, no matter what they do," Murray said. "If you want to be the best, you have to be willing to work hard, be dedicated and have that commitment to never settle for less."

One of the ways Antwon tries to boost the process of getting better is to watch how those already considered amongst the best, do what they do. Antonio Cromartie is one particular player, who Murray sees as the standard for the position. "He does it all. He's got everything you want, and he just shuts people down," Murray said of the former Florida State Seminole, who was taken in the first round of this year's NFL Draft, by the San Diego Chargers. "You do what he does and how he does it, you are going to be successful."

That is probably true, but the glaring difference between Cromartie and Murray is that while Antwon is approaching six foot, Cromartie is well beyond it, the former ‘Nole a very rare combination of great flexibility, with even greater (6 foot, 4 inches) size. When facing the ever-increasing size of the wide receivers throughout football, that's obviously a big help.

For Murray, though, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

"I don't care how big he is, how small he is or anything," Murray said of the receivers he faces. "I will play you the same no matter what. I get on the line, in your face, and I play aggressive all the time."

"Size only beats you if you let it. I don't let it beat me."

Another way Murray is fine-tuning what he does is by watching video, some of it tutorials on how to play the position. And one of the videos he's attached himself to was put together by someone who knows a little thing about how to play defense.

Debuting as an All-American cornerback for New Mexico in the mid-to-late 60s, Willie Shaw has etched a more impressive resume' together as an assistant coach. Perhaps one of his greatest achievements was taking an Oakland Raider team, ranked dead last in the NFL in total defense in 1997, to being the fifth best defense in the league in his first year with the squad.

Add to that a number of jobs, including the Minnesota Vikings (secondary), New Orleans Saints (secondary), Detroit Lions (secondary), San Diego Chargers (secondary) and St. Louis (defensive coordinator), you could say he's qualified.

What those videos bring Murray are the things he thinks are the keys for what any player needs to be successful. "It's about the fundamentals and becoming better from knowing just the little things about what it takes to be successful," Murray said.

His team (Kathleen HS), coming off a third-round loss last season and a second-round loss the year before, is poised to become better as well. They have taken a couple of steps toward the state title and Murray sees it as his role to make sure they take one more. "You have to be a leader out there, on and off the field," he said. "If it's not going right, I get in there and make it right. If that means talking to someone about slacking or whatever, that's what I do. That's what a leader does."

It's no wonder Murray is being courted by a number of teams and his pushing double-digits in written offers right now. The physical ability notwithstanding, it's the intangibles which make this kid coveted from one coast to the other.

Thus far, Murray said that he has offers from Nebraska, Ole Miss, Central Florida, Pitt, Bowling Green, Ball State, Marshall, Central Florida and Florida International. Antwon added that he's also getting a lot of attention recently from the Gators.

What's that mean to him right now? Just what does all this attention amount to? "It's good, but I'll keep recruiting in mind to the point that it doesn't take away from my football here," he said. "I'd like to take a couple of official visits during the season, but I won't if I think it's going to screw up my season too much."

Of those offers, Murray said that three currently stand out:

"Ole Miss was the first to offer me and I get along with their coaches, so they are a team I like a lot," he said. "Iowa State is an up-and-coming program, I have enjoyed talking to their coaches and I like their DB Coach (Chris Ash)."

"As for Nebraska, that place speaks for itself," Murray continued. "They have won like five national titles and they have had players like Tommie Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and Eric Crouch."

"What can you say about them? It's Nebraska."

Three stand out right now, but Murray pointed out that there is a lot of time to go. As he is warming up to the process of recruiting, he's looking around more and more. Part of that process will be via the team camps, Antwon scheduled to attend one-day camps at Auburn, Alabama and Florida, and a two-day camp at Ole Miss.

After that, it's back down to getting ready for his final season of prep-ball. It's a time he plans on making the most of, no matter what he has to do. He's going to make sure he goes out right. "It's just wanting to be the best, whether it's me or it's the team," he said. "That's what you want to try and do everyday."

Murray currently has a 3.5 GPA and a qualifying SAT score.


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