Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech, offensive guard Jason Murphy spent his first training camp with the San Diego Chargers. When he was released in August, the Seattle Seahawks wasted no time claiming him off waivers.
But with only a couple of weeks spent in the Seahawks training camp, Murphy didn't survive the final cuts. But Seattle had seen enough of his talent to bring him back for the 2007 season and offered him the chance to go to NFL Europe. Murphy became one of the Frankfurt Galaxy's starters on the offensive line and got the chance to start in the league's World Bowl.
Eventually released by Seattle, Murphy got a call to join the Tennessee Titans practice squad in late November. And he's clearly excited about the opportunity as he continues to gain valuable experience and exposure that he hopes will result in settling in with an NFL club as a member of their 53-man roster.
I caught up with Jason recently to talk about his NFL experience to date — which has become much more typical for younger players than simply signing with your first NFL team and latching on.
Ed Thompson: What's your NFL experience been like so far?
Jason Murphy: Coming to the NFL I knew it was going to be — I wouldn't say a struggle — but I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work to solidify myself as an NFL player in this league. It's been a lot of highs and a couple of lows getting released by teams and then getting picked back up. But through it all I know that I just have to keep working hard and my chance is going to come — and hopefully it's here with the Titans now. I'm showing them how hard I work and what I can bring to the team.
Thompson: What was it like playing in NFL Europe?
Murphy: I was with the Seattle Seahawks at the time and they extended the opportunity to me to go play in NFL Europe. They offered it to me, I didn't have to go. But I wanted to go for the experience of it. I play guard, but went over there in hopes of getting some time to play center and get some more experience at that position. A couple things happened and I ended up starting at right tackle instead. It was far from my position of guard and center, but I ended up doing a great job at it. I started for the Frankfurt Galaxy and we went to the World Bowl. We ended up losing in the last game, but it was a great experience going over there and getting to see Germany. I don't know if I'd do it again, but I had a good time doing it.
Thompson: Had you ever been to Germany before?
Murphy: I had never been there before. But it was all that I had heard about and more. It was a great experience.
Thompson: What's the most fun you had off the field while in Germany?
Murphy: I don't know about all of the other teams, but the fans in Frankfurt were a lot of fun. They're allowed to bring drums, horns, and everything into the stadium. So they made sure you felt them when they were cheering, banging on the drums, and blowing their horns. That's something that's not allowed in our NFL stadiums that you don't get the chance to see.
Thompson: Talk about the time you've spent with San Diego, Seattle, and Tennessee. By working with three teams during these first two years, you've certainly had the opportunity to learn from different players and coaches along the way that I'm sure has been helpful to your development.
Murphy: All three teams had different coaching styles. Arriving in San Diego, I had Jack Henry as my coach and he was more of a hands-on coach who had a lot of wisdom from the game and coaching in the league for so long. Just coming out of college, I think I learned a lot, just techniques and things of that sort while transitioning from college to the NFL. Learning from him definitely helped me a lot coming into this league. Then transferring to Seattle and learning from guys like Walter Jones and Chris Spencer and Chris Gray — the veterans of the team for Seattle — was really helpful. Now that I'm here with the Tennessee Titans and coach (Mike) Munchak, I'm eager to learn from him. I came in during the season, so he's been spending a lot of time dealing with getting prepared for the next game, so he'll be spending more time coaching me during the offseason. I'm eager and ready to be coached up by him because he's a veteran of the game, a Hall-of-Famer and a good coach.
Jason Murphy celebrates following a Virginia Tech win over UNC in 2005.
AP Photo/Don Petersen
Thompson: Where have you seen the most improvement in your game during the past two years?
Murphy: I think in pass protection because I've been around different types of pass protection. Coming out of college, everything was just drop back and mirror a guy. When I went to Seattle it was a different type of protection, it was more of a jump set, so everything is done in a zone at the line of scrimmage. As the ball is snapped, you're backing off the ball. I've definitely gotten better at my pass protection because I was a physical player, but I've learned that sometimes you're more physical than what you have to be to get the play done correctly.
Thompson: Has Coach Munchak been able to express to you what he sees in your talent that he thinks shows potential?
Murphy: We had a couple of talks and he said I have the athletic ability to succeed and good strength. He also tried to tell me what things about my technique that I might need to work on, like getting good foot position and hand placement. I think he sees a lot of upside in me. I see him looking at me all the time when I'm in practice, so I definitely hope that he's appreciating what I'm doing out there. Anything he has to offer, I'm trying to take it in and be better.
Thompson: What's a typical week like being on the practice squad with the Titans?
Murphy: Because I played defensive line in college and then transferred over my sophomore year, they've had me going on defense against the starting offense along with going on offense against the starting defense. It's brought back the feeling of being on the defensive line and that's been exciting. They say "Murphy you need to calm down a little bit," because I guess I've been making some good defensive moves sometimes. This team is a little more exciting than the teams I have been on, just more in having fun and practicing at the same time. I've been on other teams where you do things "this way" and there's no joking around and it's serious all the time.
Thompson: Do you think that attitude starts at the top with head coach Jeff Fisher?
Murphy: When I first got here, he came to me and said get ready to work hard and have fun doing it. I think that's what he brings to this team is helping you enjoy what you're doing day-in and day-out.
Thompson: Is there anything you'd like to pass on to your old fans at Virginia Tech or to the new fans at Tennessee?
Murphy: The fans are always going to be the best thing about Virginia Tech, so I just want them to know I'm always going to be a fan of Virginia Tech. Since I came to Tennessee, I've gotten with the alumni club here in Nashville and we just meet up and watch the games. And for the Titans fans, be ready for excitement because I can't wait to bring excitement to them on the football field.