Almost every day of his Missouri career, Marcus Murphy would walk past the faces of past football greats who’ve been immortalized with a picture on the Tigers’ All-American wall at the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex.
Murphy wanted to be on that wall, too.
“Coming into Mizzou, I just wanted to leave a legacy, be one of the guys will be always remembered when you walk through the hallways or facility there,” Murphy said.
Murphy, who graduated in August with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and pursued a master’s through MU’s Positive Coaching Program during the last year, earned the kickoff return job as a true freshman.
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He sat out 2011 with a shoulder injury, but rebounded in spectacular style in 2012 with three punt-return touchdowns and a kickoff-return score, earning first-team All-SEC honors and second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated as a return specialist.
“We have that All-American wall, and a personal goal was to be up there, but I found out after my sophomore year that, in order to make the All-American wall at Mizzou, you have to be voted first-team All-American,” Murphy said.
It became even more of a driving force for Murphy, but his return numbers dipped across the board in 2013 and he failed to return any punts or kickoffs for touchdowns despite the team’s turnaround from a 5-7 campaign to a 12-2 season complete with an SEC East division title and Cotton Bowl victory.
He announced a return to All-American form in the 2014 season opener, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a score against South Dakota State.
Murphy, who was the SEC special teams player of year as a senior, then broke the team record for career return touchdowns with punt- and kickoff-return scores at Florida.
He also scored a rushing touchdown in that game for one of the Tigers’ most impressive performances of the season.
Murphy was chosen as a first-team All-American by Scout.com after the season, earning a coveted space on that wall.
He believes those same talents will transfer into the NFL.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of coaches, a lot of different scouts for pretty much every team …” Murphy said. “When you’re not automatically a first-round guy, they really don’t know how the chips will fall, but a lot of guys have said they want me, because I can play a lot of positions on the field.”
Murphy said he’s talked to a lot of team, but doesn’t have a sense where he’ll land.
“I really don’t have any expectations, but I just know come Sunday I will be on some team and ready to go to work next week,” Murphy said. “Every day, I’m going to give it my all. No days off. … Any obstacle that I face, I’m going to try to overcome it. I want to be that guy where you say, ‘Murph, he’s a playmaker, man. If you’re looking for a play, put the ball in Murph’s hands.’ That’s my biggest goal.”
He certainly was that at Missouri, where he ranks second to Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin with 5,112 career all-purpose yards. He and Maclin are the only players to top 5,000 career all-purpose yards.
Murphy, a first-team All-SEC performer as an all-purpose player and return specialist, finished his senior season with 177 carries for 924 yards, a 5.2-yard average, with four touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 212 yards, a 7.6-yard average, with one touchdown.
His real value might be his return skills after he averaged 10.4 yards with a touchdown on punts and 29.6 yards with two touchdowns kickoffs.
Murphy owns the most punt returns in MU history with four and is tied for first with career kickoff returns. His seven total return touchdown are a Tigers record, breaking Maclin’s previous record of five.
Murphy finished second in the SEC, averaging 131.9 all-purpose yards per game. His 1,714 all-purpose yards were the most in the SEC.