Murphy makes big impact at UT-Martin

Friday, January 27, 2017
Jay Murphy (right) bull rushes an Austin Peay offensive lineman on October 8 in the Homecoming game. Tribune photos by Matt Mizner

Despite being just the 48th most populous county in Tennessee, Marshall County has a reputation for putting a large number of quality athletes on the hardwood, diamond, and gridiron in spite of the small population pool.

In fact, current UT-Martin football star Jay Murphy attributes the small town atmosphere for allowing him to concentrate on the important things growing up in Lewisburg that led to recent success on the football field.

"I feel that there are little distractions so that players can focus on the game," Murphy, now a junior at UT-Martin said. "Being from a small town like Lewisburg is a blessing in disguise. It gets boring from time to time. But that just gives you more time to worry about important things."

"I wouldn't trade being from Marshall County for anything and I am glad that my mother (Roxie Murphy) my brother (Michael Murphy) and my dad (Tim Murphy) raised me here."

Starting his career at UT-Martin with little fanfare on the recruiting circuit (just two FCS offers) Murphy has been a pleasant surprise for the coaching staff, playing 11 games and starting one as a true freshman before having a breakout sophomore season, finishing 11th on the team in total tackles with 25, including 1.5 tackles for a loss and half a sack.

Such a successful sophomore season made anticipation for his junior season high around Martin with the defensive lineman one of just four returning players to be featured on the cover of the annual Skyhawk media guide and preseason posters.

"The poster was big time for me," Murphy said. "It meant so much for me to be on the cover. But how that came about is that we have a motto. "Big men lead the way". And I truly believe that it starts up front because games are won and lost by the guys up front."

Murphy did not disappoint as the Lewisburg native was one of only nine defensive players to start at least 11 games while turning in career highs of 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a Skyhawk team that finished the year 7-5 and 6-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Skyhawks three-year record in the OVC with Murphy on the roster is an above average 17-7 and the defensive tackle has contributed 64 tackles, six tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, a quarterback hurry, and a fumble recovery in 35 games.

Jay Murphy (56) gets a rest on the bench along with his teammates during the Skyhawks 45-31 versus Austin Peay.

Playing for the Skyhawks has also provided some traveling perks for Murphy as UT-Martin has taken trips to play at FBS opponents Kentucky, Mississippi State (ranked #1 in the nation at the time), Ole Miss, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Georgia State and his favorite Hawaii-----who the Skyhawks lost to 41-36 after going into halftime leading 17-14.

"Definitely the trip to Hawaii (was the highlight of 2016)," Murphy stated. "I had a blast. Playing in paradise and in the stadium that NFL Hall of Fame and pro-bowlers have played in. That was really special to me. Knowing that I dressed in the locker rooms and played on the same field as my favorite players growing up did."

With a successful junior season behind him, Murphy is working hard on the academic side to be prepared both in the classroom and on the field for a senior season in which the Skyhawks are expected to compete for an OVC title.

"Well working out obviously gets me to the level I need to play," Murphy offered. "But it's not only the work outs. It's about classroom management."

"What I mean by that is how well you do in the classroom has an effect on what you do on the field," Murphy added. "If you cut corners and just go through the motions in the classroom. You are more than likely to do it on the field."

Along with Aaron Medley, who will be a rising senior at Tennessee in the fall, the UT-Martin standout also has NFL aspirations but has made plans for the future if it doesn't work out.

"Of course I want to make it to the NFL," Murphy explained. "I feel that I have done everything in my power to make it to the next level, and I hope scouts see my talent and help me mold it into a professional."

"My major is human health and performance," Murphy continued. "But I plan on being a GA (graduate assistant) to get my master's in education. I want to teach and coach high school football. I want to help young men get to where they need to be to play at the next level."

With Marshall County turning out great role models like Murphy for future players to emulate both on the field and in the classroom locals will have hometown players to root on for in the college level for the unforeseeable future.