Senior running backs Jaamal Berry and Duane Brady have only played together for one full season at Murray State. Yet, the dynamic duo has a friendship which dates all the way back to their senior years of high school.
Berry and Brady attended the same football clinic as rising college freshmen and formed a strong bond.
Little did they know, their paths would cross again three years later in Murray. Now the Racer running backs enjoy a friendship on and off the field.
“We just click,” Brady said. “We just know each other so well that we know how to take care of each other.”
The duo now enters its final season as Racers, looking to improve upon successful 2012 seasons.
Berry, a late transfer from Ohio State in 2012, took the OVC by storm.
After missing the first two games, Berry racked up more than 900 total yards, scoring eight times and averaging a conference-high 7.1 yards per carry through the final nine games of the season.
Berry was rewarded for his accomplishments earlier in the summer, joining senior receiver Walter Powell as the lone Racers to be named to the 2013 Preseason All-OVC Football Team.
While transferring from a Big Ten powerhouse to a small OVC school in western Kentucky admittedly came with several challenges, Berry attributed some of his success to his friend and teammate.
“I just came in here last year and Duane (Brady) has been here four years,” Berry said. “There’s so many ins and outs and he knows more than me, so I definitely went to him for help. Off the field, he just helps me keep a straight mind and stay out of trouble.”
Brady enjoyed the company in the backfield in 2012. The St. Augustine, Fla., native rebounded from a down sophomore season to post career-highs in nearly every offensive category.
Leading the team in carries, Brady amassed 870 total yards, averaging five yards per carry and reaching the end zone nine times.
Brady has played in each of his previous three seasons, racking up more than 1,200 career rushing yards at Murray State. He will now look to put the finishing touches on a productive Murray State career.
While the duo might seem primed to repeat their successful 2012 campaigns, Brady and Berry will face several new challenges with the 2013 squad.
In addition to losing All-American quarterback Casey Brockman, Berry and Brady will line up behind a far-less experienced offensive line than a year ago.
Now that the pair are the focal point of the high-flying Racer offense, opposing defenses are likely already looking for ways to stop the duo from running rampant.
With the inexperience at some other key offensive positions, Head Coach Chris Hatcher plans to lean on his experienced backfield heavily.
“They (Brady and Berry) are dynamic,” Hatcher said, “We’re going to lean heavily on them this season, especially early on until we break the quarterback in.”
That heavy workload will not slow down as the season wears on. When asked about his team’s greatest strength, Hatcher spoke warmly of his running backs.
“Offensively, our (biggest strength) is our backfield,” Hatcher said. “You look at the experience we have with Jaamal Berry and Duane Brady – those guys have made big time plays for us over the past few years.”
Though Hatcher has worked to give his experienced running backs significant rest in preseason scrimmages and practices, Berry and Brady said they are excited and ready to get down to business.
When asked about where the Racer backfield ranks with others around the OVC in the coming season, Berry quickly made his opinion clear.
“There’s no competition,” Berry said. “We’re the best backs in the OVC.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff Writer