Fran Murray passed away just weeks after being inducted as a Penn Hall of Fame athlete last spring. Last May 16, just one week after Penn's student body left campus, Francis "Franny" Murray was inducted into the Penn Athletic Hall of Fame -- it would be the last athletic honor Murray would receive. On June 28, the 82-year old former Penn football star died at his home in Boca Raton, Fla., of complications from a stroke suffered four years ago. From 1934 to 1936, Murray was a cornerstone of the Penn football team, taking snaps as the team's quarterback. Along with Lew Elverson, Bill Kurlish and Ed Warwick, Murray was part of the legendary "Destiny Backfield." In addition to signal-calling, however, Murray was also a member of the defensive secondary, a kicker and a punter. He enjoyed success at all positions. During the 1936 season, when Penn was a national football power, Murray had one of the best games of his career in a 27-7 victory over Michigan. Against the Wolverines, Murray passed for one touchdown, rushed for two more scores and kicked three extra points. On the other side of the ball, he intercepted four passes. His punting in that game, however, may have been the most impressive and important part of the performance. Murray, who perfected the coffin-corner punt, placed the ball inside Michigan's 12-yard line six times. But the Michigan game was not the only highlight for Murray in 1936. Against Penn State, Murray averaged 67 yards a punt, including one that travelled 80 yards. "He loved football, and he loved Penn," said Elizabeth Murray, Franny's wife of 57 years. Football may have been the sport in which Murray made his mark, but it was not the only one in which he excelled. During his junior and senior years, Murray also captained the Penn basketball team. After graduating from Penn, Murray went on to host his own nightly sports radio show. He then returned to the gridiron when the National Football League was created. Murray spent the 1939 and 1940 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, punting and playing halfback in the city where he went to college. But his NFL career was short-lived. In 1944, Murray was named executive director of the Philadelphia Inquirer Charities by another man who had great influence on Penn, publisher Walter Annenberg. He served in this capacity for several years before returning to his alma mater. From 1950 through 1953, Murray served as Penn's athletic director. After leaving Penn, he performed in numerous public relations positions until his retirement. He also was involved in many community and charity activities. The final surviving member of the "Destiny Backfield," Murray will be remembered as a great man, as well as a great athlete. "He was the greatest guy I ever knew," friend Walter Daly said. In addition to his wife, Murray is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren. Funeral services were held at St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church in Boca Raton.Comments powered by Disqus
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