All-Ivy Gridder Paces Tracksters
Among all the long, lean runners on the Harvard track team, one exceptionally large athlete stands out. When he takes his place at the start of each 500-yard race, one can't help but think that Coach McCurdy certain of victory, must be letting a shotputter enter the sprint. But as soon as the gun goes off, it becomes quite apparent this is no shotputter. With a smooth and effortless stride, he paces himself perfectly hanging back until the gunlap, and, quite often, blowing by the competitors to take first place.
This unlikely looking sprinter is junior Scott Murrer, an All-Ivy noseguard for the football team. With one day between seasons to train for the event. Murrer not only won the race, but came within one second of his best time. He continued his winning ways throughout the indoor season, winning the 500 four meets in a row. His unbeaten streak continued until the GBCs two weeks ago when he pulled a calf muscle--his first injury on his three years on the track team--and finished fifth.
In addition to the 500. Murrer also runs the anchor leg of the mile relay, and it seems that no matter how great the deficit he inherits, he makes it up, and when given a lead Murrer never relinquishes it.
"I enjoy running the anchor," the Winthrop House resident explains "By the time I get the baton the race has reached its climax and I'm in charge."
By the end of the football season, Murrer tips the scales at 225 lbs a weight he says hurts his feet when he runs. But even though this tremendous bulk hampers Murrer's running somewhat, it also makes overtaking him in a race a difficult feat for his opponents.
"He's so big," Steve Ezeji-Okoye, a teammate who runs with Murrer in the 500, says "Passing Scott is like trying to go around a wall."
Just as important as his blazing speed and his size is his laid-back, loose attitude. No matter how far behind he may be, he never panics, and never tightens up.
Assistant coach Frank Haggerty describes Murrer's attitude as "that great Midwestern mentality." He comes down, does his warm-up and finds, out what his workout is and does it. He never questions it or tries to negotiate to make it easier, and I've given him some phenomenal workouts."
Murrer grew up in Cincinatti, Ohio, and attended St. Xavier, an all-male Catholic high school. He began running in seventh grade when he joined the cross country team but gave it up the following year when he discovered the gridiron.
He continued his running career with spring track, until junior year when he was kicked off the track team because he went to a prom instead of a meet.
His football playing attracted a lot of attention. He was named All-City and recruited by such football powerhouses as North Dame, Michigan. Purdue and Tennessee Murrer chose Harvard, though, because he "was attracted to a school with such mystique and that treats you more as an audit than as a student."
Here at Harvard, he has continued to excel in football. He finished second among Crimson gridders with 52 and was one of only two Harvard players named to the All-Ivy team.
"He was an outstanding force in so many different ways." Coach Joe Restic said. "He just got better and better with every game and will be one of the top defensive players in the league next year. He could be in a class by himself.
Murrer came to Harvard with the intention of playing only football. But once the season ended and he found himself with time on his hands, he decided to return to running. At first he found it hard to adjust to the length of the combined winter and spring track seasons, and he didn't even make varsity spring of his freshman year.
He stated out as quarter miler, but then moved to the 500, an event which requires a combination of speed and endurance. Both McCurdy and Haggerty feel that Murrer may he even more successful in the 800.
"If he had the opportunity to train year round be could be an All-American half miler." Haggerty hypothesizes.
McCurdy is only a bit more conservative in his estimation of Murrer's potential.
"He is an indestructible hulk. He has improved technically and become a more coordinated runner. And he has a fund of native endurance."
There seem to be few limits to Murrer's potential in either of his sports. "He's got the equipment the tools and the speed," Restic said "It's just a matter of how good he wants to be."
Murrer realizes that combining two sports makes it difficult to live up to Restic's and McCurdy's expectations, but he feels that both coaches accommodate him and his dual commitment.
"The greatest thing about being here [at Harvard] is that football is not a year-round sport, so I can run track as well," he says. "Of course it helps that both coaches are so understanding."