Murphy takes advantage of opportunity

Leaving would've been easy. Tyler Murphy had three years in Gainesville to make an impact for Florida, and when it didn't happen, transferring seemed inevitable. He could've gone somewhere closer to home or somewhere that offered more playing time, but he didn't want to leave. He wanted to wait for his opportunity. It came on Saturday, as Murphy led Florida to a 31-17 win over Tennessee.

Murphy heard the buzz from outsiders. He seemed like a likely candidate to transfer. He was recruited to run Urban Meyer's spread offense, and with the pro-style offense that Will Muschamp wants to run in Gainesville, it did seem like an imperfect fit.

"It was tough sitting on the sidelines -- never fun," Tyler Murphy said. "Sometimes you have to be patient when you come to a big football school like this. It was always in the back of my mind that I might never play.

"I just kept working hard, kept fighting, kept faith in myself and praying for an opportunity. It wasn't the way I wanted it, but an opportunity is an opportunity."

No one really knew what to expect when Murphy came in the game on Saturday. He threw the first pass of his collegiate career, even if it didn't count in the statistics, on Florida's two-point conversion attempt against Miami last weekend.

Murphy didn't waste much time erasing the doubts.

The play calling was understandably conservative when he first came into the game. The running game anchored the offense -- as it always will under Muschamp -- but as Murphy got more comfortable, the passing game opened up more. He finished the day 8-for-14 with 134 yards and one touchdown through the air. On the ground, Murphy totaled 84 yards on 10 rushes with one touchdown.

"A great example of a guy that when your number is called at the University of Florida, you better perform at a high level," Muschamp said. "That's what's expected. He came in, kept drives alive with his legs and his arm. He got us in and out of the right run game looks. Just so proud of him."

The redshirt junior's selfless attitude was a big reason why his teammates have rallied around him. Even when Jeff Driskel missed some of fall camp because of an appendectomy, the Florida offensive players swore their confidence was just as high with Murphy running the show.

The nation saw why on Saturday.

But just one year ago, it wasn't like this. Murphy was the head of the scout team. With Jeff Driskel running the Florida offense and Jacoby Brissett serving as the backup, Murphy went to Muschamp and asked if he could run the Florida scout team to help prepare the Gators on the defensive side of the ball.

"There's not many guys like that in this society," Muschamp said. "Everybody wants it now and wants it new. He's a guy that has worked extremely hard and cashed in his opportunity today."

There were multiple ways this story could've been derailed in recent years. Murphy could've transferred, but his strong relationships with teammates kept him rooted in Gainesville.

"I enjoy the school," Murphy said. "I have a lot of good friends here that I'm close with. I'm not afraid of competition. Competition makes you better."

The talk of position change was also there. Before getting on the field Saturday, there had been five other quarterbacks play for the Gators since Murphy made it to Gainesville -- John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Trey Burton, Jeff Driskel and Jordan Reed.

The Gators have desperately searched for wide receiver help in recent years, and Murphy showed his athleticism on Saturday that sparked talk of him moving to a spot that could get the ball in his hands more frequently.

He heard about it from multiple people, but the move was unappealing. Murphy knew why he came to Florida and that wasn't going to change.

"People did talk about changing positions," Murphy said. "I love playing quarterback. I've played it all my life. I take a lot of pride in being a quarterback, and I just didn't want to give up. Changing positions, I would've given up on myself."

His story of getting to Gainesville shows the improbability of it all. Murphy was going through his senior season at Wethersfield High School when he and his coaches decided to send his film to Gainesville in September. At some point in December, Murphy received a phone call from offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and head coach Urban Meyer.

Initially, Murphy thought one of his friends was playing a joke on him, but the uniquely deep voice of Addazio proved to be true.

They wanted him to visit. Murphy was already committed to Temple after turning down offers from Connecticut and Syracuse, but the opportunity to visit Florida was impossible to turn down.

"I wasn't a high recruit guy," Murphy said. "I didn't know much about the recruiting process. This is an opportunity that many people don't get."

When Addazio left to take the head coach job at Temple, Murphy thought about following. He was already familiar with the school and Addazio, it was closer to his home, and there was a chance to get more playing time. But Murphy just couldn't shake the thought that he would be missing something in Gainesville.

On Saturday, he found out what that was.

"He defied what you would think a lot of backup guys would do in that situation," Muschamp said. "He didn't just manage our team, he produced."

After deciding he wasn't leaving, Murphy began to settle in. He'll graduate in December with a telecommunications degree, another plus for staying because "you can't beat a University of Florida degree." He wanted to leave Gainesville with a degree.

With Jeff Driskel's season-ending injury on Saturday, Murphy will eventually leave Gainesville with plenty more memories to come this fall.

The big moment came on Saturday. After Murphy's first two drives under center, the third drive is when he finally settled in. His first pass on the drive came on a quick screen to Solomon Patton. The easy throw turned into a 52-yard touchdown as Patton's speed did all of the work.

However, that short throw made a world of difference in Murphy's comfort level.

"That quick screen got my nerves calmed," he said. "I was focused and trying to play football after that."

This week of practice gives Murphy all of the first team reps to correct smaller issues. He admitted some sloppy play, including some issues with the snaps, that should be ironed out this week. Murphy was in control of the offense, making plays with his legs and arm.

It gave the Gators a new energy on offense that should carry into next weekend's game at Kentucky. The offense won't look much different, but the coaches will spend the week creating a game plan around Murphy's skillset.

"There's some throws Tyler probably like better than Jeff," Muschamp said. "We'll tailor those as far as the throwing game is concerned."

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