Of all of the players looking for a spot in the NFL draft, at least two understand security.

Not just "wave at the guy with the clipboard" security, but real Fort Knox, lock-it-down, "I'm gonna call this in" security.

Although this draft is full of running backs who have piled up yards and touchdowns, Latavius Murray and Montee Ball might be the safest bets to finish the play with the ball.

Murray went 407 carries at Central Florida without losing a fumble, including this past season when he led Conference USA in rushing. His last lost fumble came in 2008, against Memphis, when Mike Shanahan was still the Broncos' coach. It was Murray's only lost fumble in his career — which had 453 carries.

"I guess I just have always understood the ball is important; playing another down is important," Murray said. "You always want the extra yard, to give your team a little something extra, to get everything you can out of a run. But you have to finish with the ball in your hands, and I think ball security on every play.

"You don't want to be that guy who puts the ball on the ground. You're probably coming out if you do, and I wanted to stay in. I always want to stay in."

For those hunting for a running back, Murray, who was not invited to the scouting combine, is a bigger back in a sea of smaller ones. He said he weighed about 225 pounds during his workouts in California.


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If he runs well March 20 at his pro day in Orlando, Fla., Murray will get a long look from plenty of teams looking for a little more bulk in the backfield. The Raiders, Cardinals and Seahawks have shown interest.

"The defense's job is to get the ball away from you," Murray said. "My job was to make consistent progress, make plays and keep the ball for us. To win, you need the ball. I never want to surrender the ball. That's just been my approach along the way. Hopefully it does help in how people view me as a running back."

Murray almost limped away from football in 2009, after he played sparingly as a true freshman. He suffered a devastating knee injury playing pick-up basketball. Young, injured and far from his family in New York, he wondered if the best thing might be to leave Central Florida.

"You're young, you're immature and basically you're facing the first real significant physical issue you've ever had," Murray said. "A lot of thoughts jump around in your head. But I chose to stay and see it through, and it was the best decision I could have made.

"I think I improved each year, made myself a better player and just really wanted to be that reliable option. I think I always appreciate the guys who hang on to the ball as they go about their business."

Ball, who was the first option in Wisconsin's grind-it-out look this past season, went 655 carries before he lost his first fumble this past September — on his third carry against UTEP.

In November, Ball, who said he models his game after former Broncos running back Terrell Davis, lost a fumble on the goal line against Ohio State, just the second of his career, which ended with 924 carries.

"You can count on me with the ball in my hands," Ball said. "Just two fumbles in 924 carries. You can count on me to be there for you. I think it will count for something."

That it does.

Jeff Legwold: 303-954-2359, jlegwold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jeff_legwold