Pack star defensive lineman Larrell Murchison knows where his heart lies
Fighting through adversity is nothing new for NC State football fifth-year senior defensive lineman Larrell Murchison.
Nothing has been handed to Murchison, who is the embodiment of not being an entitled athlete. He has had to earn everything that has come his way, and sometimes he has had to do it with a heavy heart.
The 6-foot-3, 291-pounder lined up as a fullback and defensive end at East Bladen High in Elizabethtown, N.C., where he played with his fraternal twin brother Farrell. The duo ended up together at Louisburg (N.C.) College, which isn’t known for producing high-major Division I talent.
Murchison had the likes of Georgia, Texas, Ole Miss and North Carolina recruiting him during his sophomore year at Louisburg, and right when he thought he was going to choose the Bulldogs, the scholarship offer fell through. NC State quickly pounced on him and he became the last addition to the class of 2017.
The adjustment from the junior college ranks to ACC football was not easy. NCSU defensive line coach Kevin Patrick often recalls how Murchison didn’t know how to get into a proper stance at first. He needed to be redshirted, and it was the best thing to ever happen to him.
“My stance was bad when I first got here, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Murchison said. “It was so bad, I don’t even remember what I was doing.”
The year of extra training led to Murchison winning the starting defensive tackle job when he returned to the field. He finished with 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks, including an incredible three-sack performance against Virginia on Sept. 29, 2018. Murchison wasn’t just playing for himself last year, but also for his twin brother.
Farrell found out in July 2018 that he had testicular cancer and couldn’t play running back like he planned at Winston-Salem State. Larrell and Farrell were in just their second year apart from each other, after playing together through junior college at Louisburg.
Farrell had surgery on July 12, 2018, and dutifully did every chemo treatment. He was back on the field for Winston-Salem State’s 2019 spring practices, and Larrell’s inspiration played a key role.
“It’s been a blessing to me to go through what I went through and playing at the pace that I’m playing at,” Farrell said. “I inspire a lot of people on the team.”
When Farrell played his first game against UNC Pembroke, Larrell was there watching the 6-1, 228-pound Farrell rush 13 times for 109 yards in a 27-21 loss.
“To know he was in the stands watching me play, it’s like an extra boost,” Farrell said. “A year ago, he was watching me be on the bench. It’s special to me.”
Larrell looks back on that scary time period, and there is only one way he can describe his feelings for his twin.
“When he hurts, I hurt,” he said.
He feels bad that he couldn’t be there for every chemo treatment, but loves that his brother beat his cancer.
“Everything about him inspires me," Larrell said. "Him beating cancer inspires me to this day.”
The three-day stretch from Oct. 10-12 of this fall proved to be a special one for the twins. When Larrell played against Syracuse Oct. 10, Farrell was able to attend. Larrell then returned the favor two days later and watched Johnson C. Smith at Winston-Salem State.
Larrell posted six solo tackles, including a pair of sacks, in the Pack’s 16-10 victory, while Farrell rushed for 57 yards in his team’s 23-7 win.
They normally stay in touch through FaceTime, but were happy for the time together that they don’t normally get much of it during football season.
“It’s pretty awesome with how it worked out,” Farrell said. “When I watch him play, I get butterflies because I want to see him do so well.
“When I see him do well, I can’t control myself. To see my brother dominate at that level — he worked so hard to get to Division I.”
When the twins’ football schedules overlap, their mom will sometimes relay what is happening from one to the other. Larrell had the performance of his life Sept. 28, when he tallied 3.5 sacks and six tackles in the loss at Florida State to earn ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week accolades.
Farrell played at Virginia Union that day and watched some of the game on the bus ride home, and then got updates from his mom in the second half.
“I was so excited watching him, and I saw the first two sacks,” Farrell said. “Then I fell asleep. My mom called and woke me up and said he had another 1.5 sacks. I couldn’t even describe how I felt after that.”
Murchison compiled 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the first six games this season in the Wolfpack’s new 3-3-5 alignment. He ranked fourth on the team in total stops, and led the way in both tackles for loss and sacks. As of Oct. 12, he tied for fourth nationally in sacks (1.17 per game) and 21st in tackles for loss (1.4 per contest).
Like many seniors, he has NFL aspirations. He’s happy to play potentially seven more games with his NC State teammates. He tries to be the self-described “aggressive and energetic guy” on the field.
“We have fun together,” Murchison said. “It’s about business, but we have fun.”
Family is everything to the Murchisons. Nothing sums that up better than when the twins and their three siblings make return home for Thanksgiving and other holidays. Elizabethtown has a population of 3,583 and is home to Glenda’s Just Dessert & Lunch Counter, run by Murchison’s mother.
“It’s amazing,” Murchison said. “I know by Monday, at least three people will bring in a paper to my mom, explaining, ‘I saw your boy on TV. Oh, he did a good job.’
“The community support is amazing. It’s a small town and not a lot of people have made it out of there.”
If teammates from either NC State or Winston-Salem State have a chance to come with the Murchison twins for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they’ll be in for a treat.
“There is food on top of food,” Farrell said. “There is turkey, mac and cheese, ham. All my siblings and family come together, and we host it at one house. Most of the time, it’s our house.
“We can also host it at the family restaurant. It’s very special, and there’s nothing like it.”
Larrell added there is more, usually stuffing, cranberry sauce, potato salad and homemade yams — and then there are the desserts.
“You have pecan pie, sweet potato pie, key lime cake and Hershey bar cake, which I promise is one of the best desserts you will ever taste in your life,” Murchison said. “Momma’s cooking, you can’t beat it.”
After epic performances like Virginia last year or Florida State this season, the calls, texts, Facebook messages and whatever other ways there are to communicate come pouring in from his friends and family in Elizabethtown. He hopes to one day be in a position to give back to his community.
Murchison hopes to inspire like Desmond Bryant once did for him. Bryant went to East Bladen and then Harvard, playing in the NFL at defensive tackle from 2009-16 for the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.
“He had camps every year,” Murchison said. “It’s all God’s plan, but if I can get to a place where I can come back and do a camp myself or pay for my high school’s cleats, I want to take care of the community and let them know, ‘I’m here. I’ll be being active in the community.’”