In his decade-long tenure as king of rodeo cowboys, specializing in bareback and bull riding, Murray suffered torn ligaments in both knees, major injuries and fractures in both shoulders, and a broken jaw. So it’s fitting that he should draw inspiration from another oft-battered, survivor athlete, Rocky Balboa.
” ‘Rocky’ is still to this date my favorite movie,” Murray says. “I guess people might look at it now and make fun of it, but at the time I saw ‘Rocky,’ I was probably 8 or 9 years old. And being a guy that wanted to be a great athlete, that movie made a huge impact on me and my career. It made me a believer from an early age that if you want something bad enough and work hard enough at it, you’re going to get out of stuff what you put into it.”
That said, the world-weary, underdog aspect of the film probably has less resonance for this rider, who won his first competition at age five. At 20, he became the youngest man to win the PRCA’s All-Around Rodeo Cowboy title, which he went on to attain another six times, making him the winningest professional cowboy in the history of the sport.
“I don’t know if it would’ve affected me as much at age 30,” Murray admits. “But as a young kid, that movie had a bigger impact on me than any have since.”
Murray retired from professional competition in 2002, so time will tell if he follows his hero’s lead once again and throws his Stetson back into the ring.
Though Murray is also a big fan of “Pulp Fiction” and the canon of Denzel Washington (whom Murray compares to a modern-day John Wayne), he has been disappointed by Hollywood’s attempts to portray the world of rodeo. And that goes for the 1994 Lane Frost biopic, “8 Seconds,” for which he script-consulted. “It’s the closest a rodeo movie has come to being true to life,” he opines, “but it’s still pretty far off.”