Nick Murphy, Arizona State's punter in the 1999-2001 seasons, signed with the Minnesota Vikings on draft day as a free agent. He was cut in September of 2002, and came back to Scottsdale doing a variety of temporary jobs like valet parking. In January 2003 he was re-signed with the Vikings and was allocated to NFL Europe in Barcelona. Following that overseas stint, he came back to Minnesota just to be cut a second time.
After that dismissal he returned home and got his insurance license. The Philadelphia Eagles came calling in January of 2004 and the former Scottsdale Community College standout was reallocated again to NFL Europe – this time in Scotland. In a cruel déjà vu he was cut by the Eagles in this past summer's training camp, and was at home when he got the call from the Ravens just a few weeks ago. "I kinda loose track of all this," he said as he tried to recall all of these events. "It's been three years."
Prior to his signing with the Ravens, NFL Europe was his first test of professional football. "It was really different, especially in Spain," said the 5-11 188 punter. "Nobody speaks English, and the culture is real different. People eat at 10PM, have siestas where everything is closed, and smoke like chimneys. It was real beautiful in Barcelona - you're right there on the beach. But football is football – that experience wasn't different."
"Scotland was more American friendly I guess, being that it's in the UK," Murphy continued. "Everyone speaks English, and the Scottish people are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet in your life. It was hard to understand their accent the first few weeks, but you'd be surprised how quick you get used to it. By the time I left, I could talk to a cab driver and understand everything he said even if he was talking in the other direction (smile)."
With failing to make the NFL for three years, no one would blame the punter about giving up his aspirations. How hard was it to keep the dream alive? "I always believed in my heart that I was good enough to do it," claimed Murphy. "I proved that in NFL Europe. I was on the all-star team both times I was there. I knew I can play, I just wasn't sure I was ever gonna get the opputunity to show it. That's the toughest part. You have to wait and hope that you're in the right place at the right time."
Another hurdle that Murphy has faced is trying to make it in the pros playing the punter position. "I may be bias, but it's really tougher to make it as a punter," he commented. "Mainly, because there are no backups. You're coming in to be a starter. If you can't make it you're cut. You're the guy or you're not around. That's the life of a kicker I guess."
Some of the adjustments from college football to the pros are quite natural, while others are definitely unique to punters. "Consistency is the biggest one," Murphy remarked. "It's a lot like golf, you're not gonna hit it perfect each time. As long as your worst punts aren't shanks, aren't returned for touchdowns, and are hard to return – you'll be fine. One big difference is the football itself. We use spanking new footballs each time we punt. It less of a ball and more like kicking a diamond (smile)…the NFL is a smart business, and they know that the game will be less exciting if all the punts went for touchbacks. They want more scoring. Punting is a lot more difficult than people think. The new balls are slick and hard – not exactly what you'd want to kick." Nevertheless, Murphy has been doing quite well in his first three games in the NFL averaging 43.2 yards a punt, with a long punt of 54 yards, and six punts inside the 20.
Looking back to where he came from, and seeing where he is currently is, all the cuts and disappointments through out the years may seem easier to accept. "Everything happens for a reason," said Murphy. "I knew I wasn't ready, especially my first year and probably my second year. After my second season in NFL Europe I felt like I was prepared, and not just someone that was gonna get by in the NFL. I knew I could play up to my expectations and the expectations that others have of me. Being cut makes you really appreciate the paycheck you get every week. I was in the real world and I know what it's like. Some guys make millions of dollars by the time they're 22, i.e. the other Arizona State guys that are here – Terrell and Todd (smile)."
Speaking of Terrell Suggs and Todd Heap, have they followed the cruel unwritten locker room law and ignored the punter because of his position, or is the Sun Devil bond strong enough to prevail? "There are the same guys, they just make a lot more money from when I first met them (smile)," Murphy quipped. "They've been cool, and this whole team has been really accepting. It's a veteran team and a close-knit group. As long as you go out and play well everybody loves you."
As far as his alma mater, Murphy said that he does follow them, but should probably abstain from watching them on TV. "I'm happy with the season that they've had," he stated. "That Arizona loss is really disappointing obviously, but I know those guys are out there trying as hard as they can. Unfortunately for me the three games I watched are the three they lost. I guess I'll stop watching…"
One of the biggest ironies in football is that a successful punter usually resides on a struggling or below average team. After all, an inept offense is a punter's best friend. Murphy agreed that the reverse correlation between an effective punter and winning team is a very peculiar one. "The games I'm out there the most are probably a bad sign for the team," he admitted. "I don't mind punting ten times. It puts you in a rhythm, instead of standing around an hour between kicks. Now obviously if I'm gonna kick ten times, I'd prefer not to do it in the mud and rain like in New England. But sometimes even if the team has a losing record, you may not have that many chances to punt. In coach Koetter's first year (2001) we had a losing record, but our offense scored a lot – I hardly got to punt. Ideally, you want to have a great game and get a win, but that doesn't always correlate."
As someone who has seen his fortunes switch back and forth rather quickly, Nick Murphy realizes that he can't get too comfortable with one team. "The situation here is a temporary one," he said. "I know I'm gonna be here a limited amount of time. So when I have a good game, I'm hoping that when it's time to cut me that maybe I did open some eyes. I came into the NFL in November, and I've been playing at stadiums like Baltimore and New England, that aren't the easiest to kick in this time of year, and I'm still doing well."
"I don't expect anything," Murphy continued. "One thing I learned the last three years is that when you expect something to happen it usually goes the other way. I wouldn't be surprised if I got cut now and not signed until the begining of next season, and I won't be surprised if I got cut and signed right away. I just hope that now that I have this experience that would get me off comments like ‘oh he played in NFL Europe.' I showed that I can play in the NFL."
Wait Was Worthwhile for Nick Murphy
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