Chris McMurtray: Bombs Away

There's a long-standing tradition in sports: when a player has worn a certain jersey number for a long time, that player sometimes tries to "purchase" the jersey number from a player who previously had the number.

Chris McMurtray has no intention of trying to continue the tradition. The former SMU kicker has his college number tattooed on his left ankle, but when he arrived for the Cowboys' rookie mini- camp, he had no intention of asking the team for a jersey with his former number: 31.

Never mind the fact that NFL kickers wear numbers in the single digits or the teens. In Dallas, No. 31 belongs to safety Roy Williams.

"I'm not worried about a number," McMurtray said. "I'm just trying to make the team. How am I going to buy the number from Roy Williams? If I make the team, I could afford to buy him lunch -- that's about it."

It's one thing for an undrafted rookie to try to make a team by unseating a veteran. But McMurtray is trying to make the Dallas roster after an offseason in which the Cowboys signed ex-Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt.

"I'm here to kick off," McMurtray said. "Yeah, I'd like to kick field goals, too, but they signed Mike Vanderjagt. The team has a lot of money invested in him, and he's the most accurate kicker in NFL history. You've got to be a little realistic."

McMurtray left mini-camp without a contract, but Dallas head coach Bill Parcells said the team could sign players for training camp at any point over the next couple of weeks, and said he is not opposed to carrying an extra kicker on the Dallas roster as a kickoff specialist.

If he chooses to do that, McMurtray can fill the role. As a senior at SMU, he made special teams a real weapon for the Mustangs, taking away the opponents' kickoff return game with booming kickoffs into the end zone. He also finished his college career by hitting 17 consecutive field goals, including a game-winning 47-yarder in SMU's win over the University of Houston.

McMurtray said that while Vanderjagt almost certainly has a chokehold on the placekicking duties, his own maturation has made him a more than viable candidate to handle the kickoff duties.

"My leg has gotten a lot stronger," he said, "plenty strong to kick off."

McMurtray said that part of the credit for him even getting a chance to try out for the Cowboys goes to SMU head coach Phil Bennett, who made calls to help his kicker get noticed.

"Coach Bennett really became a pretty big fan of mine over the last year or two," McMurtray said. "He made calls to some teams on my behalf, including Dallas and the New England Patriots."

That the Cowboys invited him to try out was ideal for McMurtray, who grew up in the Dallas area.

"I grew up watching the Cowboys," the lefty said. "Now I have a chance to play for them. I kicked well (in the mini-camp), and I'm going to keep coming out here and working at it. Hopefully, I'll get my chance."

CowboysHQ Top Stories