Sluggerís son awaits selection
By Doug Alden
LOGAN, Utah ó Shawn Murphy found a very effective way to get out from under his fatherís Major League shadow.
He became an offensive lineman.
Murphy, the son of former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy, is forging his own way into pro sports as an NFL draft prospect. He gave up his fatherís game late in high school to focus on football, not knowing that it would turn into a career decision eight years later.
Heís a little surprised to hear his name mentioned in any of the early projections, let alone as a possible sleeper who could go in the second or third round. Heís also heard he may not get picked at all.
After the roundabout route he has taken to get here, Shawn would be content with any chance he gets.
iI feel like I deserve a shot Iím getting through work, playing hard and sticking with it,î he said, ibut at the same time it just still doesnít feel very real.î
At 25, Shawn could be one of the oldest members of this yearís rookie class. He took two years off from football to serve a church mission in Brazil, then spent another year away from the game considering whether he wanted to even play again.
His career has included stints at two junior colleges and finally Utah State, where he spent the last two years and got plenty of attention from scouts ó more for what he was doing on the offensive line than for his athletic pedigree.
He started 12 games at tackle as a junior, then moved to guard for his senior season and started all 12 again. At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, his size is ideal for a guard. He also has quick feet and graded well at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Now, heís working out and waiting.
Dale said the pre-draft anxiety brings back some memories, but what he went through before the 1974 baseball draft and what Shawn is experiencing are vastly different. Baseballís selections still donít garner the attention the two days of NFL picks get every spring. And the idea of watching a draft for either sport round-by-round, live on television, was unheard of when Dale was selected No. 5 overall by the Braves 34 years ago.
iI canít even remember how we found out. I think I got a phone call,î Dale said.
Shawn, the third of eight Murphy children, naturally played baseball growing up during his fatherís career with the Braves, Phillies and briefly the Rockies. He remembers being heckled when he struck out in high school, the superstarís kid failing to deliver. He said the taunts didnít bother him much, but they probably made him appreciate the anonymity he enjoyed in football a little more.
He doesnít mind being known as Dale Murphyís kid. Heís just not the kind of guy to drop his dadís name unless heís asked.
iI canít complain about having a dad that did what he did and to be able to have the experiences I had,î Shawn said.
To Shawn, Dale is just iDadî ó not the two-time National League MVP remembered for his 398 home runs, 2,111 hits and 1,266 RBIs. And to Dale, Shawn is just a son who worked his way through some confusing times before deciding what he wanted to do.
After returning from Brazil, where he lost 40 pounds and weighed in at around 230, Shawn was without a football home. He had played as a freshman at Ricks College, now known as BYU-Idaho, which dropped athletics while Shawn was serving his Mormon mission.
He waited tables and worked as a bouncer while taking classes and trying to figure out his life. For a while, he wasnít sure he wanted to play football again.
That changed when he went to see BYUís season opener against Notre Dame in 2004.
iI remember thinking, ëI can do this and I want to do this,í î he said.
Cheeseburgers, pizza and lots of time in the weight room helped him get back to his playing weight. He returned to football at Dixie State in 2005, moving from defensive end to the offensive line. After one season with the Rebels, larger schools were interested in Murphy, and Utah State won the recruiting campaign, largely because he could play for the Aggies right away.
Utah State went 1-11 in 2006 and 2-10 last fall. Despite the teamís struggles, Murphy stood out enough to play in the East-West Shrine game and get invited to the draft combine.
NFL draft adviser Gil Brandt said Murphy impressed scouts with his strength and agility. Brandt said the only potential downsides he sees with Murphy are his age, although that could be a plus if a team is looking for maturity, and his lack of experience.
Overall, Brandt said Murphy could be a good pick for someone in the middle of the draft.
iHeís definitely a very underrated or under-publicized player,î said Brandt, the former personnel director for the Dallas Cowboys.
Dale retired from baseball 15 years ago and has spent countless hours traveling and shuttling kids to game after game. His youngest two children are still in high school, and son Jacob is about to go on his church mission, then plans to play football and baseball at BYU.
Dale and his wife, Nancy, plan to be at as many games as they can ó whatever the sport.
iI love to see them play as many sports as they can as long as they enjoy playing,î Dale said. iIím convinced as a parent we need to find out what they like to do and encourage that instead of having them doing what we want them to do. And thatís kind of tough sometimes.î