Murray and Wells are two last names that Columbus North football fans might want to become familiar with, if they haven’t already.
Junior linebacker Tay Wells is second on the team with 85 tackles and has helped the Bull Dogs to an 8-1 regular-season record. Wells said playing for North feels much better knowing his cousin, junior Dominique Murray, is fighting on the other side of the ball as an offensive lineman.
Wells and Murray are cousins who grew up playing football together in Madison, but their bond makes them feel more like brothers. Wells said it is always great to play football with family.
“It was pretty fun, honestly,” Murray said about playing together in grade school. “We got to build more of a relationship, and it helped us become better teammates.”
The duo was split up after the Murray family moved to Jennings County in middle school, but they still got to play against each other. Murray said it was always extra competitive when Jennings played Madison because he was going up against Wells’ team. It wasn’t until the Murrays moved to Columbus when Wells and Dominique Murray no longer got to see each other on the field.
Murray’s father Phil got his first taste of Columbus when Columbus East traveled to play Madison on the Cubs’ youth night in 2011. Former East standout quarterback Gunner Kiel showed his Columbus charm by interacting as much as he could with the Madison youth players.
The Olympians made sure to shake all of their hands before the game and during halftime. Kiel, who went on to win Indiana Mr. Football honors that year, took it even further by signing autographs and taking pictures with the youth players after the game.
“Dom and Tay said ‘I want to be like him,'” Phil Murray said. “That’s really what brought us up here, that young man. That night, he had us crying.”
Wells and Dominique Murray played against a Columbus youth team a week later in a losing effort. The Columbus coach took the time to acknowledge the fight he saw in both boys, and it was at that moment when Phil realized Columbus would be a good fit for his son.
“I never thought it would actually happen, but it did, and ain’t no looking back,” Phil said. “It would not have happened if Gunner Kiel and East didn’t come play Madison.”
The Murrays ended up leaving Columbus, which separated Wells and Dominique’s football bond for a short time. Columbus’ youth team left a lasting impression on Wells’ father Joshua, also.
The Wells family started to make their plans on migrating to Columbus around Tay’s seventh-grade year. Now that both families are back in Columbus, Dominique and Tay are excited to be back on the same field again.
“I was like. ‘Oh snap, coming to see family again, reuniting, coming to play on the same football team is just great,'” Tay said. “We’ve been out here doing big things. He shows what he can do on offense. I play on defense, so we’re just (representing) the (family) name on both sides of the field.”
Both players have one more season left after this year, but another set of Wells and Murrays could be hitting the varsity scene by the time they’re gone. Tay’s younger brother Rashan is a sophomore junior varsity defensive lineman, and Dominique’s younger brother Marcus is a defensive back for North’s freshman team.
North coach Tim Bless said the Bull Dogs try to cultivate a family atmosphere as a team, anyway, and having an actual family within the program makes it that much more special. Bless said he has seen great growth out of both players in embracing the North system.
Tay Wells has been a varsity starter for most of this season, and Dominique Murray has cycled through the varsity offensive line rotation and also has started a couple of times this year.
Bless said Dominique’s versatility in making sure he is ready when called upon has helped in making North a better team.
Their family rivalry that comes out in practice also helps raise the level of healthy competition between the offense and defense. They don’t trash talk each other much, but they get a thrill out of going head to head on the field.
“On the field, we go head to head,” Tay said. “Every time I see Dom, he’s running full speed at me, and things happen. You gotta show who is better.”
Name: Tay Wells
School: Columbus North
Name: Dominique Murray
School: Columbus North
Position: Offensive line