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Standing room only crowd attends Murdock services

Posted Aug 4, 2012 by Bill Ward

Updated Aug 4, 2012 at 09:26 PM

Former Middleton football and track star O.J. Murdock, who apparently took his own life Monday just outside the fence of the Tigers’ Abe Brown Stadium, was laid to rest Sunday following a service hundred by at least 1,000 friends, former classmates and coaches and family members.

It was a standing room only crowd that turned up at Calvary Tabernacle in Thonotosassa. And it was a loving one, too. A choir belted out joyous, up-beat hymns and several of his former coaches shared some of their favorite stories about one of the greatest athletes the county has ever produced.

Among the coaches who spoke about Murdock were his Memorial Middle School track coaches Aesha Bailey and Steve West, his former Tampa Trailblazers track club coach, Gary Watson, Harry Hubbard, Murdock’s football coach at Middleton, Al McCray, his coach at Fort Hays State, and former Middleton track coaches Deon Maddox and Joe Troupe.

Each of them had poignant, often funny stories to share about Murdock, who besides being such a wide receiver he was signed by the Tennessee Titans, was a national junior Olympic track champion in middle school, a state 100- and 200-meter track champion in high school and the kid who first dunked a basketball in Memorial Middle School’s new gymnasium.

Also in attendance were Tennessee Titans players tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Damian Williams, who were excused from training camp on Saturday in order to attend the services. Both players once lived with Murdock and both shared humorous moments they shared with their former roommate.

Be sure to read Martin Fennelly’s column about O.J. in tomorrow’s Tampa Tribune and later here on

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