Murphy shining at UT Martin
Former Marshall County standout Jay Murphy was an anchor on both the offensive and defensive lines during his football career in Lewisburg, playing a large part in helping the Tigers to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association playoffs during all four years as a starter.
Following a senior season that saw Murphy lead the Tigers with 108 tackles and five sacks while earning All-District 12-AA defensive lineman by The Tennessean and 2013 District 12-AA Lineman of the Year by The Columbia Daily Herald, Murphy received scholarship offers from Tennessee State University, UT-Martin and Carson Newman College.
After committing to TSU, where his older brother Michael Murphy played in 2009-2013, the younger Murphy ultimately decided to take his talent to west Tennessee to play for the Skyhawks of UT-Martin.
"I decided on UT-Martin because I knew right away I was stepping into a family," Murphy said. "The coaches and my teammates really helped me with whatever I needed. Plays, school work, and even just what to do on my spare time."
Murphy got the call early from the SkyHawks, playing in 11 games with one start as a freshman. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound defensive lineman compiled nine tackles, one for a loss, in a season highlighted by a three-tackle effort against eighth-ranked Jacksonville State. Murphy has been called on more frequently in 2015, currently ranking 10th on the team with 21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, half a sack. He's also one of only four Skyhawks with a blocked kick this season.
The former Tiger set a career-high in six tackles in a recent win over Austin Peay, third best on the team for the game.
"My role is basically to anchor down the middle," he said. "I'm a run-stopper. My main goal in game planning is to take on as many double teams as I can to give my linebackers some room to breathe."
Although just halfway through his sophomore year, Murphy already has played in a couple memorable games with the Skyhawks.
"My favorite game would have to be Mississippi State last season," he said. "Going into the number one team in the nation and actually playing as a freshman was something I dreamed of. But the Ole Miss game is right after that."
Despite being away playing under the big lights of major college football, the K-12 education major, still keeps close tabs on his former high school team.
"I do keep up with Marshall County. This is where I was born. (Marshall County) is my home," he said. "No matter if I'm in a hotel or in my apartment on Friday nights, I'm always asking my family, did (Marshall County) win?"
"My favorite memory at Marshall County is my last game with my brothers on the football field. I miss every single one of them and I hope to see them soon."
The former Tigers standout also offered up a bit of advice for all the current Tigers hoping to one day follow the lineman's footsteps into the college ranks.
"Play every down with a passion and emotion," Murphy advised. "At practice, in games, play like it's your last. You have to love this game if you want to play at this level."
Murphy comes from great football lineage. In addition to his brother's career at Tennessee State, one cousin, Dusty Nance plays at Carson Newman, and another Donta' Hightower, was a standout at Alabama and now playing with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
However he says his mother, Roxie Murphy, remains his greatest influence.
"She's been my inspiration since I was a little boy," he said. "She wouldn't let me quit peewee football."
Murphy and his Skyhawk teammates step on to college football's biggest stage again Saturday when they take a break from Ohio Valley Conference play to visit Arkansas. The Skyhawks are 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the OVC with the only losses coming against then-No. 15 Mississippi and Jacksonville State, the top-ranked team in FCS, by a mere touchdown.