Murphy shines at Martin, hopes for shot in NFL
While all good things must come to an end, former Marshall County star Jay Murphy will try to use a standout senior season at UT-Martin to extend that ending a few more years.
The 6-4, 334 pound defensive lineman set career highs in tackles (39, 7th on team and 1st for defensive lineman), tackles for loss (five, 5th on team, 1st for defensive line), one sack, two fumble recoveries, one pass defended, one pass broken up and a career-high three quarterback hurries.
"First, Jay is a tremendous person, extremely smart and was without question my best and most consistent player this season," Skyhawk defensive line coach Clint McMillan, a former Florida Gator standout, said. "He is a great learner and always wants to find ways to improve."
"Being my only senior was a huge reason why he was the most valuable player in my room," McMillan added. "He's seen everything and has made every mistake so coaching him is about perfecting his craft, not teaching it for the first time. He played the best football of his career this season and that's a tribute to the physical and mental dedication he gave to the Skyhawks."
Steadily improving in every statistical category every season at UT-Martin, Murphy was named pre-season all-conference and did not disappoint, starting all 11 games for the first time in his career and was awarded by being named 2nd Team All-OVC Defense and Third Team All-OVC by college football guru Phil Steele.
With 44 career games under his belt, that included 24 starts, Murphy finishes his time in Martin with 101 career tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, four quarterback hurries, a blocked kick, a pass broken up and a pass defended along with helping the Skyhawks to a four-year record of 26-20 with a 23-11 OVC record.
"I think my senior season went very well," Murphy said. "I accomplished every goal I set as a player and a student. Some highlights for me personally were just being able to play with my brothers and having a great time doing it. No matter how many tackles I made. I enjoyed every second being with those guys."
"As far as highlights team wise, winning back-to-back against ranked opponents," Murphy continued. "Very proud of the guys for those wins. Looking back on my career, I feel that I chose the right path for me personally. Playing at UT-Martin was my advantage because it was a small town but big time atmosphere. We had each otherís back so it felt more of a family other than a business."
The natural progression after such a successful career is making a run at a shot at an NFL career, something only two percent of college seniors achieve.
"Well as far as the NFL, I have had some contacts with some teams," Murphy stated. "Iím going to let it run its course before I let out a lot of information. I am indeed pursuing a pro career, but at the end of the day I am comfortable because I do have back up plans at UT-Martin to become a graduate assistant and getting my masterís degree."
Although UT-Martin is not a school that is well-known in terms of having numerous players in the NFL, the Skyhawks do have some history with sending players to the pros.
Since 1967 the Skyhawks have had 12 players drafted into the NFL with the most recent being Montori Hughes from Murfreesboro Siegel being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the 139th pick in the 5th round of the 2013 draft which broke a 17-year drought.
Hughes has played in 25 games with one start over four seasons with the Colts and Giants and signed a futures contract with the Redskins on January 3.
The Skyhawks have also had many players sign with teams as undrafted free agents as evidenced by four different players signing contracts after the 2015 draft and 2014 undrafted free agent Jeremy Butler currently on the Bills roster, so with hard work and dedication, Murphy can very well find himself on an NFL sideline in 2018.
Right now, Murphy is just worried about staying in shape and working on technique before a UT-Martin pro day.
"Well Iím training with my strength coach pretty intensely," Murphy explained. "We have a nutritional plan, strength plan and conditioning plan. Iím pretty confident in him to get me to pro day in great shape. I am going to a few pro days. Not sure on which ones, my coach will tell me."
And with his former position coach playing with and against many future pros during his days with Gators and participating in two pro days himself, Murphy is lucky to have good counsel on what to expect when it comes to working out in front of NFL scouts.
"I'm not sure the thought process of NFL scouts, but I do know that Jay is a great person, was the best player in my room and did everything I ever asked him without question," McMillan said. "I know you can't have enough great players anywhere so I know he'll get whatever he works for."
"He just needs to keep preparing," McMillan added. "He's a great worker and as long as he keeps working the way he always has, he'll have an opportunity. (He should) be ready and have fun."
No matter happens from here on out, Murphy has made memories for a lifetime during his days at UT-Martin.
"Every day is a memory playing college ball," Murphy said. "From the funny moments at practice or on film. To the moments of coaches getting mad at us. My whole career has been some of the greatest memories Iíll have."
"Just a few memories that stick out to me are when we went to Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl stadium," Murphy continued. "That is a very humbling experience. Playing on the same field as some of the greatest to ever play this game is very honoring. And on top of that almost beating Hawaii. Another memory was playing in the Georgia Dome in its last season before being removed."
"And what I will miss the most is just being around the guys. The funniest people you will ever meet is in a college football locker room. Being around them has truly taught me that no matter where you come from, if you learn about each other and put all your trust in one another. You can accomplish anything together."
All the football fans from Marshall County will be closely watching Murphy to see what the former Tiger will do after such an outstanding career.