The Chargers thought enough of Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray to sacrifice a day-two selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Los Angeles traded its second- and third-round picks (No. 37 and 71 overall) to the New England Patriots on Thursday night in exchange for No. 23 overall. With it, the organization believes they identified a both punishing defender and future leader.
"This is a run-hit linebacker," head coach Anthony Lynn said. "He can do the things we need him to do in coverage and also in the run game. He can play in the box, he can play in space.
"But this man's intangibles, his presence when he walks into a room – he's just a natural-born leader and I love that he's passionate about this game. It just comes through in the interview process that I had with him."
Like Lynn, Murray said he felt a connection in his combine meeting with the Chargers. But other than an encounter with a Bolts scout at Oklahoma's pro day and a phone call to check-in, communication coming from L.A. was limited.
Hence the surprise when Murray got a call from general manager Tom Telesco just before 8 p.m. Pacific Time informing him that the team had moved up to select him.
"It says a lot, the fact that they believe in me that much to trade up to get me," Murray said. "To me, it means everything. When people believe in me like that, I have no other choice but to give it my all and go out there and give them everything every Sunday," Murray said.
The former Sooner's collegiate resume includes 325 career tackles (36.5 for loss) and third-team All-American honors in 2019. He played in a Rose Bowl in 2018 and two College Football Playoff games in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
The passion matches the productivity, too. Murray called himself "a fiery dude" who plays "with extreme speed."
"I sleep, breathe and eat football," he said.
"It's almost like he's built to play defense," the GM said. "I think that helps, especially in the position he plays and the style the plays. We feel like he's going to fit in very well with our guys on defense."
Telesco added that it's easy to see how Murray's range and explosiveness could look in Gus Bradley's scheme. And perhaps in time, the 21-year-old rookie could blossom into even more.
"… We just think he has some of those attributes that he can be a — down the road, we don't ask kids his age to come in here and lead the football team he's going to come in and follow for a little bit — but kind of learn how we do things and hopefully we'll see his career blossom and he gets older."
Take a look through some photos of linebacker Kenneth Murray, who followed up an exceptional career at Oklahoma by being named the 23rd pick in the NFL Draft to the Los Angeles Chargers.