Even after this, even after running into the NFL record books, even after seven Sundays of 100 yards, DeMarco Murray humbly acted as if he has miles to go before he sleeps.
Before Sunday, no running back had ever rushed for 100 or more yards at the start of an NFL season more times (six) than the immortal Jim Brown did in 1958.
But Murray’s 128-yard afternoon, as the Dallas Cowboys wore down the New York Giants 31-21 Sunday, was his seventh.
The achievement personifies the Cowboys’ 6-1 turnaround. His running has shaped their personality. It’s given wings — and legs — to what was supposed to be a flighty, injury-plagued offense.
On his record-setting day, however, Murray refused to embrace the congratulations.
“It’s hard for me to accept this individually,” he said. “I definitely wish those guys were here, because they’re a huge part of this — the tight ends, the receivers, the entire coaching staff.
“I’m blessed to be mentioned in that [record], but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”
In the ’70s and ’80s, Tony Dorsett ran like a deer from pursuing defenses. His arrival made the Roger Staubach-era Cowboys complete.
In the ’90s, Emmitt Smith was the bell cow of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl teams. His rushing totals endure.
DeMarco Murray? That’s a tough one.
In his three previous years in the NFL, he’s yet to remain healthy for a complete season. His highest totals — 217 carries, 1,121 yards — came in 2013.
At his current pace, however, Murray may surpass those by the end of this month.
Quarterback Tony Romo, recovered from back surgery, has provided a veteran’s hand and touch in the first half of the season. Receiver Dez Bryant has supplied the electricity.
But it’s Murray who has been the shaping force.
“Bell cow, or whatever you want to call him, we’re going to hand him the ball,” coach Jason Garrett said.
When asked, though, about his role in defining the Cowboys’ new identity, Murray shook his head.
“We’re still trying to create our identity,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. But we’ll continue to grind and try to make as much progress as we can.”
Clearly, Murray’s effectiveness this season has made the first two months easier for Romo. Options now abound, and if defenses focus on Bryant or tight end Jason Witten, Murray bursts through the line to keep them honest.
Murray, however, says it’s all about Romo’s options.
“I think coach [Scott] Linehan is doing a good job giving us the chance to make plays, whether it’s running or passing,” the Oklahoma product said. “I’ve got to give coach Scott a great hand. He’s giving us the opportunity to make plays.”
The Giants, indeed, lavished Murray with appropriate attention. But Bryant responded with nine catches for 151 yards, and backup tight end Gavin Escobar contributed two touchdown receptions.
“I think it’s hard to key on one guy in this offense,” Murray said. “You’ve got 88 [Bryant], 82 [ Witten], 83 [Terrance Williams], and obviously you’ve got Romo, [Cole] Beasley, all those guys.
“Like I said, Scott has been putting us in great position to spread us out and get the ball to different guys, so they can’t just key on one guy.”
As long as Murray continues this pace, more and more will be made of the new “Triplets” — Romo, Bryant and the running back.
You might, for now, want to tap the brakes on that one. The original Triplets won three Super Bowls. Romo has won only one playoff game.
But in this brow-raising season, the groundwork so far is being laid, one 100-yard rushing game by Murray at a time.
For the record, yes, he knows all about the great Jim Brown.
“He’s probably one of greatest running backs ever to play this game,” Murray said. “I have a lot of respect for what he’s done. In no way am I trying to say I’m at his level by any means.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a great guy. He’s a great activist in the community. Just a great player and a great person. But I’m not in that category at all.”
For now, it’s all about the options. The surprising 6-1 Cowboys have had none better.