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Posted on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

Hundreds honor Vada Murray at University of Michigan campus ceremony

By Juliana Keeping


The motorcade drives by the fire department after the memorial service for former Ann Arbor police officer and Michigan football player Vada Murray at Clif Keen Arena.

Angela J. Cesere |

If love could have kept Vada Murray alive, he would have lived forever, his wife told a crowd of hundreds of mourners Thursday at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor.

Murray, 43, a police officer in Ann Arbor for two decades and a former defensive back for the Michigan football team, died April 6 two-and-half years after a lung cancer diagnosis. Neither Vada, nor his parents, ever smoked.

“Vada’s cancer was like a roller coaster,” Sarah Murray said. “We wanted to get off, and we couldn’t figure out how. And it was going way too fast.”

There is not enough attention or funding for lung cancer research, she said, and not enough public information available about the environmental causes of the disease. She vowed to change that, and said she’d have more details to announce soon.


From right: Honor Guard members Fire Lt. Buscemi, Training Officer Craig Sidelinger, Driver Operator Mark Luick, and Firefighter Bryce McAllister stand at attention as the motorcade drives by the fire station after the memorial service for former Michigan football player and Ann Arbor police officer Vada Murray.

Angela J. Cesere |

Former teammates, family, close friends and police and fire personnel from Ann Arbor and other local agencies were among hundreds who attended the campus memorial service Thursday morning.

Sarah Murray described her husband as strong and quiet, straightforward and a fantastic father to his son, Deric, and daughters Kendall and Harper.

And he loved being a cop.

“He was always on duty,” she said. “At the grocery store, at weddings, at barbecues,” she added, drawing laughs.

Ann Arbor Police honored Murray with the same ceremony they would afford to an officer killed in the line of duty, including a solemn procession of more than 100 uniformed officers at Cliff Keen prior to speeches from Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones, former teammate Warde Manuel and Sarah Murray.

The service was followed by a funeral procession that included dozens of Ann Arbor Police vehicles and a private burial service at Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor.


The procession for former Ann Arbor police officer Vada Murray passed through downtown Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Murray played from 1986 to 1990 under Bo Schembechler, who took the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl in 1987, 1989 and 1990.

Manuel, who played defensive end for the Wolverines with Murray, was also his freshman year roommate at U-M. He remembered Murray as a man who never minced words and always had a cop show on the TV.

A number of their former teammates attended the memorial Thursday to pay their respects. Together, Manuel called on them to stand and recite “The Law of the Jungle,” a Rudyard Kipling poem written on the wall of the defensive meeting room during their playing days.

It was a good reminder of what it was to be a team then, he said. And a reminder that now was the time to stay strong as a team to support Murray’s family.

"For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack," the teammates said.

Back at the Ann Arbor Police Department, there is a photo on Lt. Angella Abrams desk. It captures the 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound Vada Murray outstretched and soaring, 5 feet above a mass of players at the Big House in the No. 27 jersey. In the photo he bats a football down, blocking a Michigan State kicker’s attempt at a field goal.

Abrams doesn’t know when the photo was taken. She’s not even a football fan. But she considered Murray, her son’s godfather, her most loyal friend.

And, she, like many others, will miss him.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

It was a moving tribute to a good man. Sarah and Warde gave wonderful talks about Mr. Murray, and the Police Department, U of M, and the Funeral Home which helped with the arrangements should be proud of the sendoff for a local hero, and most importantly, a good husband and father.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

"Ann Arbor Police honored Murray with the same ceremony they would afford to an officer killed in the line of duty." That's because it was a line of duty death. RIP VDM 27 You will not be forgotten.

David Briegel

Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

We lost a true Michigan Man! Way too soon. R.I.P.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

Vada Murray was a true Michigan Champion. May he rest in peace.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 11:56 p.m.

Kipling quote isn't the story ans you know it.Go soak your head Blue Brain This story is about a man who made it in real life After his Uof M Football Career was over.And died WAY to young. RIP Vada Murray.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

It's amazing to see the support that a respected officer and UofM grad received today. RIP, and best wishes to his family. A truly sad day, and big loss for Ann Arbor. Sadly, it's also amazing to see what some of you have the audacity to write in this blog. Have a little respect. If you have none, post on another story, but not this one.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

I agree. I am glad he was honored as he should be and my condolences go out to his family.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.



Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

I may be wrong but it appears the police cars in the photo are driving down 5th in the wrong direction.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

Even when we see no reason, there is a reason.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

I truly hope Michigan has a solid year.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

I don't know about the Kipling quote, but i know the Billy Joel "quote": only the good die young. His was a story I had hoped would have a happy ending :(


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

@snoper, does it really matter. Hurray, you are right.


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 3:11 a.m.

Believe it or don't, I wasn't trying to play "Who knows this quote?" I was a bit disgusted that the reporter completely missed the point of the quote, which is: it takes strong and talented individuals to make a great team. However, the individual must be willing to disown his or her individuality to become the best cog in the machine. No one exemplified this more than Vada. Ask anyone who played football with him, rode a beat with him or was a member of his family. He is the ultimate team mate.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

You botched the Kipling quote: "For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack"

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

The quote has been corrected.