Steve Murphy is a man without a position – because he plays everywhere.
Well, not quite everywhere, but the St. Mary’s senior football player lines up wherever head coach Jay Lawson and the Panthers need him.
Nominally the quarterback, Murphy also plays tailback and cornerback – when he isn’t returning kicks and punts, that is. His production in different facets of the game has led the Panthers to a 4-3-1 record so far this year.
“His season is going very well,” Lawson said. “He came into the season as one of the big leaders on our team, starting on offense and defense for us. He’s very versatile and is a very instrumental part of our team.”
St. Mary’s takes advantage of Murphy’s athleticism and speed, particularly on offense, as the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder runs a 4.5 40-yard dash.
“We see Steve as an offensive weapon who can score anytime he touches the ball,” Lawson said. “We use him in different matchups. He can run inside or outside. We can throw to him out of the backfield. He has a quick change of direction and is able to run people over. From last year to this year, he developed his speed and now has that breakaway speed.”
St. Mary’s has the luxury of moving Murphy around because it occasionally uses Scott Tully at quarterback. The Panthers coaches anticipated playing the sophomore somewhat this season, and they had played him a few plays here and there prior to the Oct. 11 Oakland Tech game. But a deep thigh bruise to Murphy against Tech forced their hand, and Tully started the following two games against Kennedy and Albany.
Murphy’s thigh healed and allowed him to take back the reigns to the offense in the last week’s game, a 40-35 loss at St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
Even though Murphy is healthy, Lawson says he will continue to bring in Tully when the situation warrants, which is fine with Murphy.
“I’m still going to be starting the games, and when it’s time, he’ll bring Scott in,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. Me and Scott, we don’t compete against each other at all. Coaches try to pump it up like that in practice, but we don’t take it like that at all.
“We have our roles. My role is to start and to lead the team. His role is to come in and keep us putting points on the board and do his thing.”
Tully is more of a drop-back passer than Murphy, whose speed allows him to make plays in and out of the pocket. Bringing in the former allows the Panthers to pair Murphy with leading rusher Fred Hives in the backfield.
Whatever position he plays, Murphy is the team’s unquestioned leader.
“Steve’s our starting quarterback,” Lawson said. “The team really follows him. He’s really mobile and allows us to do different things. We like to bring in Scott, which gives us both Steve Murphy and Fred Hives, who emerged last month as an outstanding running back for us. It makes defenses defend us honestly, so they can’t key on one back. With Scott in as QB, we’re actually more dangerous running the ball.”
With all his success on the offensive side of the ball, Murphy will likely play defense, and just one position, in college. Murphy, who’s being recruited by several schools, with Cal and Oregon as the frontrunners, says he knows he’ll end up as a cornerback, which is his favorite position.
“I like the contact,” he said. “I like to hit people and like to be able to guard people. It’s a challenge.”