Ironically, it was Harvard football coach Joe Restic who recruited Mike Murphy three years ago, not men's lacrosse Coach Scott Anderson.
Restic had good reason. The defensive lineman was a USA Today and Parade Magazine All-American his senior year at Longmeadow High School and received an award for being the best high school football player in western Massachussetts.
However, the senior's athletic acheivements at Harvard have come mostly on Ohiri Field, not Soldiers Field. While the 6-ft. 4-in., 240-lb. Murphy has started at end for two years on Restic's squad, he was named first team All-Ivy and honorable mention All-America last year as the top defender on Harvard's lacrosse squad.
"He's a very good players. He's got incredible size and strength," lacrosse Co-Captain Mark Donovan said. "In his three years here, he's developed a great check and an ability to contain forwards."
While Murphy's skills have improved since he came to Harvard, he was an outstanding player in high school. After his second All-America honor as a senior at Longmeadow--this time in lacrosse--Murphy was recruited by lax powerhouses Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina and Maryland.
Playing on the Syracuse national championship squad would have meant playing on the same field with legendary middie twins Gary and Paul Gait. However, that option was impossible for Murphy.
Murphy--known to most as `Murphy'--was also recruited by the Orangemen for football. After signing a football scholarship to Syracuse, he realized that the school would not let him play both sports.
"Syracuse is a big Division One school," Murphy said. "They wouldn't let you play two sports because football is a year-round commitment."
Harvard was a school where playing several sports was a possibility so the multi-talented Murphy decided to come to Cambridge. Aside from playing varsity football and lacrosse, the Kirkland House resident has also played for the Harvard Classics basketball team in his illustrious Crimson athletic career.
But after captaining all three of these sports in high school, Murphy said lacrosse is his favorite trade. He aspires to be first-team All-American this season.
"Football is a job. It's a lot of hours, a lot of work," the long-sticker said. "In lacrosse, everone knows each other, and it really allows you to enjoy yourself."
And as the Crimson lacrosse team opens its season tomorrow against C.W. Post College in Greenvale, N.Y., Murphy will play a huge role in the Crimson's attempt to rebound from last year's disappointing season.
Harvard was ranked as high as seventh in the nation last year but then dropped into obscurity with six straight losses. After originally setting out to capture the Ivy league title and an NCAA tournament bid, the Crimson's 7-7 record (2-4 Ivy) was not good enough for either.
"Going to the NCAA tournament is nice, but my goal for the team is to win the Ivies," Murphy said.
Post, a school which draws mostly local players from the Long Island lacrosse hotbed, will once again attempt to thwart Harvard's season in its very beginnings. The Crimson traditionally plays Post very early in the season, with Harvard prevailing in close games the past three years.
While Harvard is the more talented team, skill could become secondary on the muddy field at Post. The game was originally scheduled for today but was moved to tomorrow to give the field an extra day to dry after Tuesday's snowstorm.
"The muddy field makes for a very sloppy game," Post Coach Tom Postell said. "It's a very physical game because the ball stops and players have to dig for it."
Just the conditions under which the gigantic `Murph' can shine.