REGGIE HAYES: Columbia City’s Jared Murphy hopes to ride role of underdog all the way to an NFL camp

Jared Murphy sprints while carrying a medicine ball during a workout at AWP The Summit on Wednesday. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Jared Murphy at AWP The Summit (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
AWP Sports Speed Specialist Geoff King, center, works with Nick Ferrer, left and Jared Murphy last Wednesday at AWP The Summit. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

The first time Jared Murphy walked into AWP Sports Training as a young high school football player, he didn’t necessarily look like a prospect.

AWP founder Michael Ledo nicknamed him “Justin Bieber.”

“That name stuck for a long time,” Murphy said, then laughed.

Looks can be deceiving. Ledo now calls Murphy one of his all-time favorite AWP athletes. Murphy thrived as a Columbia City High School player and on the AWP 7-on-7 team and he landed his one-and-only NCAA Division I scholarship offer from Miami (Ohio) University, where he finished in the Top 10 in several career receiving categories.

Murphy, who missed part of his first season with injury, finished his stellar 4½-year career at Miami in December.

His sights now: The NFL.

Does that seem like a long shot? To outsiders, it does. For Murphy, it’s a continuation and perhaps a culmination of a football journey as forever an underdog.

“It’s comfortable for me to be an underdog and not have people have a lot of expectations for me,” Murphy said. “I have no problem with that. I enjoy it. It would be weird if I wasn’t an underdog.”

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Murphy has spent the last two-plus months training at AWP under Football Manager Dre Muhammad, an expert in molding wide receivers. Murphy also regularly runs routes with and catches passes from former University of Saint Francis record-setting quarterback Nick Ferrer, who is also working for an NFL opportunity.

“Nick’s ripped a pair of my gloves already,” Murphy said. “He’s got some velocity.”

Murphy will participate in a Pro Day at Miami this Tuesday, and it’s a major step toward gaining attention from the NFL.

Since Murphy didn’t play at a high-profile school, and wasn’t necessarily in a high-powered passing offense, his Pro Day marks will be even more scrutinized. He has been working daily on the skills needed to shine in that setting.

“My situation is unique in that everything comes down to Pro Day,” Murphy said. “I can’t look at anything past that.”

That’s not pressure. That’s reality. To gain notice, Murphy will need to put up numbers that resemble those of the high-profile receivers who earned invites to the NFL Combine.

Murphy declines to predict a 40-yard dash time. The top receivers’ times were mostly in the 4.4- to 4.5-second range. D. J. Clark of LSU ran the fastest at 4.34 seconds.

Murphy will run the other combine events, along with bench press and jumps, etc., at the Pro Day.

“I’m very confident in my times,” Murphy said. “I think they’ll get me some good attention.”

At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Murphy fits the body type of the classic slot receivers utilized by the New England Patriots and others. He’s a Wes Welker type, for lack of a better phrase.

Ledo said he believes Murphy has the skills to earn an invitation to training camp and, given the chance, he’ll make the most of that type of opportunity.

“Football’s football,” Murphy said. “Whatever school you go to, whether it’s the NAIA level like Nick, or DI or DII, at the end of the day, it’s football. You put your head down and work. The NFL is hard to get into, but once you’re in, the guys who know how to work and be a professional are the guys who are going to stick around.”

Ferrer said he has been impressed by Murphy’s talent and drive.

“He’s definitely skilled,” Ferrer said. “He’s quick. He changes directions very well. He’s very consistent with his hands. He has a good catch radius. He’ll go down and catch balls and catch balls possibly outside of a lot of people’s catch radius. That’s my mark of a really great receiver.”

Ferrer also mentions Murphy’s hunger and competitiveness. There’s no quit in Murphy, something he’s displayed since high school.

He’s also eager to learn more, and credits Muhammad with taking his skills higher.

“Coach Dre has been amazing,” Murphy said. “I looked at myself as being very technical in my route running and I knew a lot. But I came here and realized how raw my game was. I came in here thinking I was up there with the best of them in my knowledge as a receiver and I learned I didn’t know much at all.”

Murphy understands he’s in a long-shot situation. He also relishes it. He said many didn’t expect him to be a starter in high school, and he played immediately as a freshman. He had offers from Saint Francis and Tiffin before the late offer from Miami.

He left Miami with career totals of 158 receptions, 2,083 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“I’ve played football since I can remember and every kid at some point dreams of playing in the NFL,” Murphy said. “I stuck with it and kept pushing and I’ve put myself in position to perform at Pro Day and give it a shot and see what happens.”

Murphy’s football law seems to be clear: Tell him what he can’t do and he’ll prove you wrong.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.


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