Thursday, September 14, 2017
Chris Murray pulled out his iPhone on Sunday to video chat with his family in Tampa, Fla., which was about to be hit by one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
"I FaceTimed them almost every hour," said Murray, a senior wide receiver at Arkansas State University who went to King Senior High School in the Del Rio section of Tampa. "I thought about it a lot. But I asked my family, and they said they was good.
"So you just gotta think positive and be positive. Don't think negative. Once they said they was good, that's what I went with."
Murray was one of five Red Wolves who was recruited out of Florida, and each of them watched helplessly from Arkansas as the Category 5 Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean late last week and veered toward Florida.
"I was just praying for everyone down there, including my family," said Miami native Kendrick Edwards, a redshirt junior wide receiver who transferred from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 2016.
Edwards left Norland High School for Arkansas in 2014 because he had "always been one of those who want to travel."
The fifth of seven children, Edwards' entire family lives Miami.
"Everybody was stuck down there," he said. "Nobody left."
On the morning of Sept. 6, as news broke that No. 16 Miami had decided to cancel its Saturday game at ASU in advance of Irma, Edwards tweeted: "Lord please watch over my family and everybody else family in Florida."
"It's bigger than football," Edwards said. "Them guys were going to be up here stuck, worrying about their family back at home. I just thought of it as bigger than football."
Chauncey Mason, a redshirt sophomore receiver from Boynton Beach, Fla., called and texted his family, which had decided to stay in their home in southeast Florida.
"I know my people are tough," said Mason, who said he had experienced several hurricanes growing up. "This was a tough one, but we were prepared."
By 9 a.m. Sunday, Irma had made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds. As the day progressed, the storm steered left, away from Miami, and continued to weaken.
Edwards called his mother and grandmother: The power had gone out throughout Miami, a couple of trees had fallen, and downtown was flooded. But not in their home in Miami Gardens.
Mason scoured social media: Hard winds and rain pelted Boynton Beach, but nothing reached his family's home.
Murray FaceTimed his family in Tampa: The power had turned off and on nine times, but there was no damage.
"It's a blessing," Murray said. "Came and went."
As the state of Florida recovers, the receivers can return their focus to football.
"Everything's back to normal," Mason said. "Everybody's just trying to clean up the streets, come together as a community. Just doing a bunch of charity events for the people who did lose things.
"If I do get a chance to go back, I would love to do one of the charity events and help the community out. That's my heart. I grew up there."
Edwards said he plans to visit Miami after the season.
Murray said everything in Tampa has gone "back to normal."
ASU will play its home opener against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Saturday at 6 p.m.
"All I can do is just shout 'em out [back home]," Mason said. "Do it for them, because I know they're watching."
ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF AT ARKANSAS STATE WHEN 6 p.m. WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro RECORDS UAPB 1-1, Arkansas State 0-1 TV None
Sports on 09/14/2017
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