Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A final highlight reel for ex-Middleton High football star O.J. Murdock

Pallbearers carry the casket of Tennessee Titans wide receiver Orenthal James “O.J.” Murdock outside of Calvary Tabernacle in Thonotosassa on Saturday afternoon. Murdock was slated to report to Tennessee Titans training camp last week.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Pallbearers carry the casket of Tennessee Titans wide receiver Orenthal James “O.J.” Murdock outside of Calvary Tabernacle in Thonotosassa on Saturday afternoon. Murdock was slated to report to Tennessee Titans training camp last week.

THONOTOSASSA — It served as a final highlight reel of O.J. Murdock's life.

Middle school track star. Football standout at Tampa's Middleton High School. A fan favorite at college in Kansas. Tennessee Titans receiver.

Hundreds gathered at Calvary Tabernacle on Saturday to say goodbye to Murdock, who died last week at age 25. A lineup of former coaches, team members and classmates acted as narrators to his accomplishments. Members of Murdock's family, including his mother, Jamesena Murdock, sat in the front pew.

"O.J. was all of our sons," said Joe Troupe, who was a mentor to Murdock. "O.J. pretty much belonged to Tampa. He is a perfect example of a village raising a child. We had one common goal — to make sure O.J. was successful."

A Tennessee Titans receiver who spent his only season with the team on injured reserve, Murdock was slated to report to training camp last week. On Monday, he died of a self-inflicted wound in his car outside Middleton High School.

"I told somebody that O.J. could have been in the Olympics," said Harry Hubbard, Murdock's football coach at Middleton. "That speed. When God gives you a gift, people marvel at it. God blessed Murdock."

It started on the track, said Steve West, one of Murdock's former track coaches.

"I remember buying him his first pair of track shoes. Size 12," West said. "He went on to become one of the greatest middle school runners I've ever seen."

But the lure of football was stronger.

Murdock initially landed at the University of South Carolina after high school but was dismissed from the squad after being charged with grand theft. After a year of junior college he resurfaced at Fort Hays State University in Kansas in 2009.

There, he helped boost a low- ranked school, said Al McCray, a receiver coach at Fort Hays State.

"When O.J. hit that campus, it was magic," McCray said. Fans would come to the games and wave gallons of orange juice in the stands to cheer him on. "As you can see, he was loved here in Tampa. But O.J. also brought a million dollar smile to a small town in Kansas."

In his short time with the Tennessee Titans, Murdock's sincerity showed through.

Titans wide receiver Damian Williams said he was surprised when Murdock showed up with cash after accepting Williams' offer of a place to stay.

"Within 45 minutes of arriving he was trying to pay me rent," Williams said.

Williams tried to turn him down and poked fun at the fact that his other roommate, a friend from home, had been living in the house rent-free for three years.

"So, O.J. caused problems in my home the first day he was there," Williams said.

As a final goodbye, Troupe offered up one more accomplishment.

"O.J. wanted to be a first-round draft pick," Troupe said. "This is his draft party."

"I'm no Roger Goodell," he announced, referring to the NFL commissioner, "but with the first pick, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ selects Mr. Orenthal Murdock."

The sanctuary erupted into applause.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

A final highlight reel for ex-Middleton High football star O.J. Murdock 08/07/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Clearwater Beach driver: 'My intentions were to take my own life'

    News

    CLEARWATER — Ryan Michael Stiles stuck close to the dunes and blared his horn when he drove onto Clearwater Beach last Thursday afternoon. He didn't want to hurt anyone there, he said in an interview from the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday morning.

    Ryan Michael Stiles, 27, was arrested last Thursday after driving onto the sands of Clearwater Beach, police said. He is currently being held at the Pinellas County Jail.
  2. After Trump's partisan speech, Boy Scouts of America reiterates that it is 'wholly non-partisan'

    National

    Following President Donald Trump's campaign-style speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday evening, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement that did not comment on the president's remarks but stated that the nonprofit organization is "wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one …

    Members of the Boy Scouts of America listen as President Donald Trump addresses the 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., on Monday. [Doug Mills | New York Times]
  3. Florida Gators want a White Out in home opener

    Blogs

    At least the Florida Gators are trying to do something to spice up this season's home opener.

  4. Stop expecting Gerald McCoy to be Warren Sapp

    Bucs

    Here's the problem when it comes to Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

    Photo from National Pediatric Cancer Foundation The crowd cheered wildly for cancer survivor Joshua Fisher, left, and Tampa Bay Buc Gerald McCoy at the 14th annual Fashion Funds the Cure on May 6 to benefit the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation at Port Tampa Bay Terminal 2.
  5. Allegiant Air strands 200 in Las Vegas, possibly for days

    Airlines

    About 200 passengers on an Allegiant Air flight headed for Oklahoma City on Sunday were stranded in Las Vegas after the airline canceled their flight, according to news reports and passenger tweets. A replacement flight at no extra cost wouldn't come until Thursday, according to tweets and a Fox News report.

    About 200 Allegiant Air passengers are stranded in Las Vegas, perhaps for days. Allegiant's headquarters, shown here, is located in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, Nevada.
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]