Hayley Elwood, Team Reporter
In the past, general manager Tom Telesco has said that a player this team takes in the first round is someone he and the staff really love.
Well in 2020, the Chargers took two, when they selected Justin Herbert at No. 6 overall and traded up to No. 23 for Kenneth Murray.
Murray, now entering his second season with the Bolts, does so with a new defense led by defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill and head coach Brandon Staley.
But with a few OTA sessions now under his belt, the linebacker is liking what he’s seen so far.
“I think it’s a great first impression so far,” Murray said. “We’ve had a chance to talk and to see exactly what [Head Coach Brando Staley] wants me to do and how I fit in, so I’m happy. I feel like his scheme fits 100 percent to my strengths, so I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Murray finished the 2020 season with 107 total tackles, one sack, five tackles for loss and one QB hit. His 107 tackles set the record for the most by a Chargers rookie since 2000, surpassing Derwin James’ prior mark of 105.
But breaking down the scheme a bit more, Murray said part of why he likes it so much is because it’s allowing him to get back to the roots of what he did best in college.
It’s something Staley recognized.
“The big emphasis from (Staley) was getting me to play more downhill,” Murray explained. “A lot of things in the scheme last year didn’t allow for me to play as downhill as I wanted to play. In college, that’s pretty much what I did; every down was played downhill, so when he told me he wanted me to play downhill, it’s kind of like music to my ears. That’s what I’m really excited about; playing downhill, listening a lot more and being aggressive. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Hill also said getting Murray back to what he does best will allow him to have even greater success on the field.
“We want to put him into positions where he’s using his skillset,” the defensive coordinator mentioned. “He’s able to run sideline to sideline and he’s big enough to plug it up in the middle. We see that he’s a flex guy. We want to try to use all those attributes to really get him going in this scheme.”
But adapting to a scheme isn’t the only way Murray’s returning to the familiar in 2021.
He’s going to do it wearing the No. 9.
“When I got to Oklahoma, I told the equipment people I just wanted a single digit and they ended up giving me No. 9,” Murray reflected. “I think it was the second scrimmage that I started making a couple plays and one of my teammates said, ‘Yo, we’re gonna start calling you K9.’ The nickname stuck. You pretty much ask anyone about my name or who I am in college and everyone knows me by K9. The whole stadium knows me by K9.
“I like to say that I didn’t choose No. 9, No. 9 chose me. Going back to it for me was like getting back to my roots. Especially with this defense, getting back into kind of what I was doing in college, playing more downhill, it’s only right I’m going back to No. 9.”