Ryan Murphy roams the secondary during training camp making plays and enjoying his time with the Oregon State football team.
He plans to take advantage of every opportunity given as one of the projected starting safeties.
However, at times he pauses to remember. Murphy lost his best friend and teammate Dec. 7 when Fred Thompson died from complications of an enlarged heart.
The two were taking a break from studying for finals when Thompson suddenly collapsed playing basketball at the Dixon Rec Center.
Murphy was with him to the end, traveling with him in the ambulance to the hospital.
After an emotionally painful offseason of healing, Murphy is finally moving forward. He has dedicated the rest of his college experience to his friend, who grew up with him in Oakland, Calif.
“I’m taking it all in and using it as motivation,” Murphy said of his loss. “I have his family and my family, and close friends looking after me. I’m trying to be an example for upcoming kids and peers to move on in a positive way. I want to show them just because you face a loss, it can be a great gain as well.”
Murphy was the quiet one of the duo when they hung out together. Now he’s maturing and coming to the forefront, not only with his playing, but as a person.
He grew up quickly after Thompson’s death, and isn’t going to take anything for granted anymore.
“It helped me with football, and outside of football,” Murphy said. “Fred was a guy who talked to everyone. Him not being here, instead of me being a shell, I open myself up more. On the field, I’m playing for him and myself.”
Murphy hopes to make an impact now that he’s expected to be starter. He was the first safety off the bench last season — and started two games when Lance Mitchell was too hurt to compete — and played in nickel situations.
Murphy made 29 tackles, including a season-high five against BYU, and intercepted a pass on the goal line in a win over Washington.
That experience should help him adjust to the added demand of being a starter.
“It’s a nice opportunity for me and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” Murphy said. “I just want to help this team prepare. My experience from last year, everything was so fast. Then it started slowing down at the end of the season.”
If he can pick up where he left off last season, the Beavers should be in good shape defending on passing downs.
“I am depending on him to be a play-maker,” secondary coach Rod Perry said. “He has a lot of ability. We are looking to him as he matures to be a leader. But he has a lot of ability and skill to work with already.”
Murphy, a third-year sophomore, has been turning heads in practice for two years. He has a knack for the ball and picking off the pass, so he has made life tough for the OSU quarterbacks.
“He’s going to be really good,” coach Mike Riley said. “He’s one of the top character working guys we got. He’s a really good player.”
While Murphy is only a first-year starter, the underclassman is also one of the veteran safeties along with senior Anthony Watkins.
The other seven on the roster are in different stages of development. He and Watkins must be cornerstones of the secondary as the younger athletes learn the system.
“I just want to be a leader and I want to help this team out, if that’s making plays, that’s what it is,” Murphy said. “I’m all in as far as the weight room, eating right and not taking a rep off. That’s how I’m approaching the season.”