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2020 NFL Draft: The humble development of NC State's Larrell Murchison and James Smith-Williams
Photo credit: Katie Barnes

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2020 NFL Draft: The humble development of NC State’s Larrell Murchison and James Smith-Williams

NC State stars and 2020 NFL Draft hopefuls Larrell Murchison and James Smith-Williams are bringing more than just the proverbial chip on their shoulder to the 2020 NFL Combine. Both defensive linemen are supporting charitable organizations, gathering donations for every bench press rep thrown up.

Murchison is working with the Dementia Society of America, supporting a disease that is personal to him.

“A lot of people may not be familiar with the disease. It’s big for me because I remember what my Grandmom went through. I just want to bring attention to it. It’s a great honor to represent them at the Combine.”

Smith-Williams is supporting Set The Expectation, a nonprofit dedicated to combating sexual and physical violence by engaging with young men, coaches, and collegiate and professional athletes. He noted that student-athletes have a big platform, so engaging with collegiate athletes is an important step in addressing a severe problem in our society.

The charitable work from 2020 NFL Draft prospects Murchison and Smith-Williams is becoming a more common trend among today’s combine participants. Other notable draft prospects supporting causes are former Kentucky star Lynn Bowden, raising money for Fathers Incorporated, and Baylor All-American pass-rusher James Lynch, supporting Uplifting Athletes, an organization supporting the rare disease community through sports.

The Wolfpack defensive linemates are a tight-knit pair both on and off the field. They are rooming together during their time in Indianapolis, and have been training together in Texas leading up to the Combine. The duo have been lifting for the past two years at NC State after Murchison came to Raleigh from Junior College, and they are expected to post similar numbers – both players have the same goal of 23 reps on the bench press posted on their PledgeIt fundraising pages for their causes.

I had to ask each of them how important it was to best their teammate. Both guys admitted it would be pretty close, and Smith-Williams joked that the trash talk will be flying.

James Smith-Williams is built for the Combine

Smith-Williams weighed in 32 pounds less than Murchison, but it’s no secret that he is one of the strongest in his weight class at the 2020 NFL Combine, as he confirmed himself. Smith-Williams transformed his body during his time at NC State, adding over 60 pounds from his freshman year to today. The pass rusher can bench over 400 pounds, squat over 600, and vertical jump 40 inches. You could imagine this might add added pressure and expectations to Smith-Williams’ performance at the 2020 Combine, but he is ready for it.

“Yeah, everyone’s guessing that I’ll have the fastest 40 in my weight class. I think there’s pressure but it’s good pressure to me. I am enjoying the fact that I have that spotlight on me.”

A native North Carolinian, Smith-Williams grew up a Panthers fan, naming Steve Smith as his favorite player. He confirmed he met with Panthers’ defensive line coach Matt Phair and DL assistant coach Frank Okam. New Panthers’ defensive coordinator Phil Snow has stated that the Panthers will employ multiple fronts, which could make Smith-Williams a great fit. The Wolfpack star played 4-technique at NC State this past season but noted that he feels some teams view him as more of an outside linebacker. “I can kind of do it all. I think I’m versatile in the (regard).”

Larrell Murchison’s patient road to the 2020 draft

Murchison came to NC State in 2017 after spending two years at Louisburg Junior College. The problem was, the 2017 Wolfpack defensive line featured the likes of B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, Kentavious Street, and Bradley Chubb. After playing two years of JUCO ball, Murchison was redshirted, and he would have to wait another year to play in the ACC, being designated with a redshirt. However, it may have been the best thing to happen to him in his development:

“Coming from JUCO, I was a really raw player. My redshirt year was one the best years to help mold me as a player.”

The redshirt year certainly seems to to have paid off, as Murchison was named the team’s Most Improved Player in 2018, followed by being named to the All-ACC second-team in 2019.

Murchison has already benefitted his draft stock this offseason with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. He projects as an interior defensive lineman that’s comfortable “anywhere across the defensive line,” noting that 3-technique is what he is most accustomed to.

Ready for the NFL

The former teammates, training partners, and current Indy roommates have developed themselves into NFL prospects in their own unique way, with Smith-Williams building himself into a physical freak, and Murchison staying patient through JUCO and learning from his future NFL teammates when redshirted. This development, paired with their strikingly humble character, makes Murchison and Smith-Williams 2020 NFL Draft prospects that could be flying under the radar. “It’s good to have my brother by my side,” Murchison says of Smith-Williams. The chemistry, character, and work ethic shared in the Wolfpack defensive line room over recent years has been a recipe for success at the next level, and Murchison and Smith-Williams are next in line.

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