Who will step up to the plate among the rest of the tight ends this week?
Perhaps Utah's Jake Murphy.
You might not have heard of Murphy, an early entrant from Utah, but you've certainly heard of his father, legendary baseball player Dale Murphy.
"I've been Dale Murphy's son my whole life," Murphy said on Thursday. "That's been my name for some people; some people don't know me as Jake Murphy. I feel like I'll be able to go out there these next few days and hopefully show what I can do and make my own name."
It would have been logical for Murphy to follow in his father's footsteps, considering his Dale'sHall of Fame DNA. After all, Jake was no slouch on the diamond. He was a two-time all-state shortstop who batted better than .400 as a junior and senior in high school.
"Up until my sophomore year of college, I had an offer from the Toronto Blue Jays to quit football and only pursue baseball with them," Murphy said. "I sat down and thought about it and said, 'Is this what I want to do or do I want to be a football player?' Eventually, I realized my love for football is greater than my love for baseball. The idea of preparation and team bonding in football is something I didn't want to replace."
The money, Murphy admitted, was a bit of a temptation.
"Yeah, and then you think long term and that if you eventually make it to the big leagues, you think about the money that's there and you think about how it's easier physically on your body," said Murphy, whose brother, Shawn, was a fourth-round pick by the Dolphins in 2008. "This is a conversation that I had with my dad and with my brother. Ultimately, it came down to what I loved and what I wanted to do. Baseball never did that for me. Football was always there to bring that passion into my life day in and day out."
Murphy put that passion for football on the back burner by doing a two-year Mormon mission to Sydney, Australia. Missionaries get one day off per week, so there wasn't much time to keep his football skills sharp. That's especially true in rugby-mad Australia. Murphy played the two-hand- touch version of the sport to work on his footwork.
"My mission I felt like was a positive experience for my football career," he said. "People will look at it and say, 'You took two years off, you're a little bit older than most prospects.' But I feel like that life experience and that experience of having a daily schedule and having to be diligent to something that's not easy, I think that helped me. I can promise you, if I hadn't gone on a mission, I wouldn't be here today because it helped with my work ethic and setting goals and things like that."
Murphy, who was recruited as a wide receiver, gained weight during his mission. The coaches suggested he move to outside linebacker but Murphy elected to move to tight end so he could stay on offense. After playing as a reserve in 2011, he was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team in 2012. In 2013, despite missing four games with a wrist injury that required surgery, he caught 25 passes for 417 yards and five touchdowns, with a 16.4-yard average.
"Stat-wise, even though I missed four games, yards per catch, total yards and total touchdowns were up there with the top numbers in the Pac-12," Murphy said. "I felt like if I would have played in all the team's games that I could have led the Pac-12 in every category. Obviously, that didn't happen, but I think you can see that I was able to perform while injured and still put up some good numbers.
Murphy is the "sleeper" among this year's tight ends, according to Dave-Te' Thomas, a longtime NFL scout and consultant for the league.
"I think I catch the ball best," Murphy said when asked to describe his game. "I'm not sure the completion percentage rate when the ball's thrown my way but I'm pretty sure that it's pretty high. Whenever the ball is thrown my way, I feel like I'm going to catch it, no matter what. The versatility that I brought at Utah is something else that I bring to a team. I played for a different offensive coordinator every year and a different position coach every year. I played fullback, I played wide, I played traditional (in-line tight end), H-back. I played a little bit of fullback my freshman and sophomore year and blocked for the school's single-season all-time rusher. That was a fun experience. I just want teams to be able to see that I can bring that versatility to the field."
Murphy has been told that he's considered a fourth- or fifth-round prospect, though that status could improve with a strong workout on Saturday. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he hopes to reach his pre-Combine testing numbers of 4.7 in the 40 with a 36-inch vertical leap.
Murphy met informally with the Green Bay Packers, among other teams, he said on Thursday.
"I felt like they were somewhat interested," he said. "They wanted to know what I ran at Utah, my favorite routes, what kind of player I can be for them, what player I model my game after. I kind of assessed the level of interest when they started quizzing me and testing my knowledge of the game, and the Packers did that to me."