Kim Murray didn't understand why she received a photo of a patch of dirt in a text from her son J.T., who was in Juncos, Puerto Rico, this spring to train with Sevilla Futbol Club.

Kim Murray didn't understand why she received a photo of a patch of dirt in a text from her son J.T., who was in Juncos, Puerto Rico, this spring to train with Sevilla Futbol Club.

"I wrote back, 'What is this? It looks like dirt,'" she said with a laugh. "He wrote back, 'Mom, this is our training facility.'"

The stint with Sevilla F.C. was part of a six-month soccer odyssey for J.T. Murray, a defender and a 2007 Grove City High School graduate who was named Division I all-state for the Greyhounds his senior season.

His journey began after helping the University of Louisville post a 20-1-3 record last fall. The Cardinals reached the Division I national championship game, where they lost to Akron 1-0 on Dec. 12.

On Jan. 14, Murray was the 32nd player selected in the Major League Soccer draft by Sporting Kansas City and spent 17 days training with the team in Phoenix. After being cut from the team, he returned to Grove City before going back to Phoenix for a weeklong tryout with the Colorado Rapids last February.

Shortly after being cut by the Rapids, he traveled to Puerto Rico and spent three months with Sevilla before asking for his release and returning to Grove City.

The past two weeks, he has been working out again with Sporting Kansas City in Phoenix.

"I was only supposed to be out here a week and I'm still here," Murray said. "I'm just going to stay here until I'm asked to leave or invited to stay forever. I won't know which one until they tell me.

"At the beginning, (the waiting and wondering) was really nerve-wracking, but I've been through it a few times now, so it's not as bad. Times are hard and teams are taking their time signing players. I understand that. So I just wait around and wait around."

Last fall, Murray helped Louisville produce its best season in program history.

The Cardinals captured their first Big East championship by defeating Providence 2-1 (3-2 in penalty kicks) in the final of the conference tournament.

Then, in the NCAA tournament, they defeated Ohio State 2-1 in the third round, UCLA 5-4 in a regional final and North Carolina 2-1 in a national semifinal to reach the championship game.

Murray said just getting to the Collegiate Cup, which was held in Santa Barbara, Calif., was something he won't forget.

"We trained for that moment all year," he said. "We always said, 'Play every game like it's the national championship.' It definitely felt like you were playing at a different level."

Murray was one of three central Ohio players who played in the national championship game last season. Teammate Aaron Horton, a 2010 Olentangy Orange graduate who scored the winning goals against UCLA and North Carolina, had a potential game-tying goal blocked by Akron's Chad Barson, a 2009 Olentangy graduate, in the final minute.

"It was bittersweet walking off the field," Murray said. "I realized I'm not going to wake up and train with these guys and see my buddies.

"It took a couple of weeks to realize we've changed our program for good. We were the first team to get that far. You wish you would have been the ones who won, but that's soccer."

After the season, Murray began his pursuit of a spot on a MLS team. He thought he had a chance to be signed after playing well in a soccer combine and said it was "surreal" when Kansas City drafted him.

"My phone started buzzing and I looked up at the screen and they were calling my name," he said. "I grew up watching the NBA draft and all the draft shows. It was just awesome to hear them say, 'With this selection, we pick ...' and they say your name."

Less than two weeks after the draft, Murray reported to Kansas City's training camp in Phoenix. When he got there, he learned soccer at that level was a lot different than he anticipated.

"Guys there are playing to feed their family and not to win a national championship," he said. "It's total intensity all the time."

After being cut by Kansas City and Colorado, Murray tried to land a spot on one of the three USL Pro expansion teams in Puerto Rico.

Juncos was a new world for Murray. First, there was the language barrier. Half the team only spoke Spanish and the other half was bilingual. Sevilla's coach, Francis Munoz, was from Spain and had difficulty not only communicating with the English-speaking players but the Puerto Ricans on the team.

"It was kind of like playing the game of telephone like you did when you were a kid," Murray said. "I never knew how correct the information was because it was another player's interpretation of what the coach said."

Then, two of the three Puerto Rican teams that joined the USL went bankrupt early in the season. Murray said Sevilla was "guilty by association" and the USL removed all three teams from their league.

Murray read about the news on the Internet before he heard it from team management.

"I was like, 'What's going on? You haven't mentioned anything like this was happening,'" he said. "They're still playing in a Puerto Rican league, but my whole goal was to play in the USL. When I saw that wasn't going to happen, I asked for my release."

Discouraged, Murray returned home to Grove City before Sporting Kansas City asked him to come back to its training facility.

Murray said he continues to work hard as he waits to find out if he made the team.

"You hear about players having a meeting with the coach and you know when that happens, they're either asking them to sign or getting cut," he said.

If Murray gets cut again by Sporting Kansas City, he said he will keep looking for other opportunities in soccer.

"I don't think I have played at the level I am capable of yet," he said. "I want to play in the MLS. I want to see how I can do in that environment. I'd also like to coach. Until I help other young players learn the things I've learned and the stuff I've been through, I don't think I'll be done with soccer."

J.T. Murray helped Louisville to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Division I national tournament. The Grove City native was drafted by Sporting Kansas City.