Murphy Seems Like Fit For Packers' Defense

The Packers might think they're set with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. If not, Stanford All-American Trent Murphy would be a logical pick in the first round. The words coming from Murphy at the Combine on Saturday would have been music to Kevin Greene's ears.

INDIANAPOLIS -- In 2009, Clay Matthews was the one outside linebacker coveted by new Green Bay Packers outside coach Kevin Greene.

It's 2014, and Greene no longer is the team's outside linebackers coach. If he were, Stanford's Trent Murphy might be the one outside linebacker in this class that Greene would covet.

Murphy (6-5, 251) is coming off a monster senior season at Stanford in which he was named first-team All-American with 15 sacks. As usual, the overwhelming majority of outside linebacker prospects at the Scouting Combine played defensive end in college, and their preferred path to the quarterback is using speed. Murphy played outside linebacker in Stanford's 3-4 scheme. And physicality is the name of his game.

The fiery Greene would have appreciated the fiery Murphy's approach. As a kid, he used to wrestle steers to impress his friends. He did up-downs on the opposition's field the night before a game because Gary Galante, the coach at Brophy Prep in Phoenix, told stories of a top player who used to do the same.

"He would always tell us how cool it would be if you ran yourself so hard in conditioning that you passed out," Murphy said. "He's like, 'You're going to pass out before you die. Think about it, if you did die, how cool would it be to have that on your grave? "Little Johnny ran himself to death.'" That was just his mentality. Talk about having a tough defensive coach."

In reality, Galante's story about the player doing the pregame up-downs was a tall tale. Still, the messages and lessons from Galante and Murphy's father, the towering, muscle-bound Jerry Murphy, shaped Trent Murphy into the quarterback-sacking dominator he became at Stanford.

"It was kind of a recipe for success, really. It came from all over the place," Murphy said. "First and foremost, my family values -- my dad, in particular, is a very tough, hard-nosed guy. A lot of it comes from him. One of my coaches in high school kind of trained us with a Navy Seal mentality, tried to push us. I didn't know the story that he told us was make-believe about a player he coached who used to do up-downs. I was like, 'I've got to be at least as tough that guy.'"

Murphy, who might be on the board when the Packers are up at No. 21 of the first round, is a dream for the roughly one-half of the league's clubs that have their defense rooted in the 3-4. In the case of Nick Perry, the Packers' first-round pick in 2012, the team had to take an educated guess on whether Perry, a defensive end in USC's 4-3 scheme, could make the move to outside linebacker. In the case of Murphy, that guess will be much more educated. Murphy was a three-year starter -- and two-time All-American -- at the position.

"They can put on the tape and see what I can do, see how I can cover backs out of the backfield and things like that. I definitely have great exposure," he said.

"Especially d-ends that aren't used to covering or dropping, they not used to keeping vision on the quarterback and being out there in space. A lot of those 3-4 teams are running a lot of fire zones, a lot of exchanges. You have to keep your vision on the quarterback and be able to see everything as you're dropping. A lot of the purely rush defensive ends don't have that experience."

Outside linebacker is the most demanding position on the field. What makes Matthews so good is that he battles an offensive tackle outweighing him by 60 or 70 or 80 pounds for play after play after play. Matthews doesn't back down. Murphy's tough, too -- a trait that comes from a family of "big, mean suckers," as Jerry Murphy said in a profile for Sports Illustrated. Murphy has been called the toughest guy on a Stanford defense filled with tough guys. He uses his strength and massive 11-inch hands to "twist and turn ... and then dominate" his opponent. "It's huge," he said of that toughness. "Someday, you're going to line up against someone that's stronger than you, maybe faster than you. You still have to beat him. That's where that toughness comes into play. You can't replace toughness in the game of football."

Just like you can't replace strength and toughness and the desire to be the best.

"As silly as this sounds," Murphy said, "I was doing my best at just laying in an MRI as still as possible."

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