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Current and Former Players Laud Harvard Football Legend Tim Murphy as Phenomenal Coach and Leader

Head Coach Tim Murphy, pictured in 2013, served as a leader and mentor to Harvard football players for 30 years.
Head Coach Tim Murphy, pictured in 2013, served as a leader and mentor to Harvard football players for 30 years. By Mark Kelsey

After legendary Harvard football head coach Tim Murphy — a 10-time Ivy League champion and the winningest coach in the conference’s history — announced his retirement Wednesday morning, generations of players who showered him with gatorade after major victories had one last shower to give Murphy. But this time, they showered him with praise.

His retirement leaves a deep mark on a Crimson program that has amassed the sixth-best winning percentage in all of Division I football since 2000 and cements Murphy’s legacy as arguably the greatest coach in school history. Over his 30-year career, he won 232 games in stints at Cincinnati, Maine, and Harvard.

In interviews with 10 current and former Harvard players, almost all specifically praised Murphy’s leadership and character when discussing his legacy at Harvard.

Matt Birk ’98 is one of several players who went on to have successful careers in the NFL after playing for Murphy; the former Harvard center was a six-time Pro-Bowler, Super Bowl champion, and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year recipient. Birk’s first season with the Crimson coincided with Murphy’s after the coach left Cincinnati in 1994.

Murphy’s first three seasons with Harvard all finished with a losing record, but to Birk, his resilience was clear, and the hard work paid off . In their fourth season, Birk and Murphy led the Crimson to a 9-1 record and a conference title.

“There was a lot of discipline and hard work and delayed gratification,” Birk said. “Our senior year, it all came together and we won the Ivy League Championship, and it was sort of as it was supposed to be.”

“Ever since, Harvard football has enjoyed a quarter century of success that it never had before,” he added.

Birk also credited Murphy with redefining Harvard’s football program, changing it from an “extracurricular activity to a Division I college [program].”

His players said that Murphy was revered for his commitment to discipline and resilience on the field.

“Coach Murphy truly changed my life, not only by giving me the opportunity to go to and to play football at Harvard, but by the lessons he taught during my time with him,” wrote senior defensive tackle Thor Griffith in a text message. “He was a phenomenal coach on the field, instilling discipline and inspiring myself and my teammates in the toughest moments we had as a team.”

“One of my favorite qualities about Coach Murphy is his remarkably consistent message over the years — toughness, physicality, fighting through adversity, preparation, and relishing every win, because it’s never easy,” wrote Cole Toner ’16, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy honoree.

Current and former Harvard football players praised longtime Head Coach Tim Murphy for his leadership on and off the field.
Current and former Harvard football players praised longtime Head Coach Tim Murphy for his leadership on and off the field. By Nicholas T. Jacobsson

That consistent messaging led to the development of a strong, unified locker room, one of the hallmarks of Murphy’s Crimson program.

“His staff is on the same page,” explained RuQuan Brown, a defensive back who left the team after his first season in 2021. “We’re all on the same page about what’s expected. And that’s a part of winning, because you can’t win when the team is divided in different places and sections.”

Several players also commented on Murphy’s influence on their lives off the football field.

“It was never about the game,” wrote Tim O’Brien ’19, a four-year starter on the offensive line. “I was there day in and day out because of the team and the family Coach Murphy built around us.”

“The memories I carry forward in life are when the team was together off of the field,” O’Brien wrote. “Coach Murphy understood this better than anyone and more importantly, he knew how to build it better than anyone I’ve ever met.”

“I hope he looks back on it and he feels proud of what he accomplished and knows how many lives he’s touched,” Birk said. “And, I’ve told him this, and not just from a football standpoint but from a life standpoint, how positively he affected my life.”

“Personally, I have a very close relationship with Coach Murphy,” Griffith added. “He always made time to sit and talk with me, whether it be about football, school, or my future goals. These past four years, I have truly been blessed to have been coached by someone as experienced and passionate as Coach Murphy.”

Gratitude was a common sentiment from Murphy’s former players as news of his retirement spread. Former quarterback Luke Emge ’22, who led the team to a memorable comeback victory over Yale in 2021, wrote that Murphy was the only coach to recruit him out of high school and that it “completely changed [his] life”.

On social media, 17-year NFL veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 and All-Pro fullback Kyle Juszczyk ’13 — the only Harvard alumnus to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl — both expressed their gratitude to Murphy in posts online.

Fitzpatrick, who captained the 2004 squad — the second of three Harvard teams under Murphy to go undefeated — described his former coach as “a man that was a model in consistency, high character, and loyalty.”

Juszczyk added that he is “forever indebted” to Murphy for “changing my life for the better.”

Some of Murphy’s players also said that his retirement leaves behind a hole that will be incredibly tough to fill.

“He truly is the best to ever do it in the Ivy League,” former running back Aidan Borguet ’23 wrote via text. “We appreciate him more than words can illustrate.”

“In college football, a coach leading a single program for three decades is just about unheard of,” junior offensive lineman Davis McKenna ’25 remarked. “Coach Murphy’s record speaks for itself, and his impact on all the players he coached was extremely positive.”

“We are going to miss him,” McKenna added.

—Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at

—Staff writer Katharine Forst can be reached at Follow her on X @THC_Forst.

—Staff writer Jack Silvers can be reached at Follow him on X @JackSilvers5.

—Staff writer Griffin Wong can be reached at Follow him on X @Wong_THC.

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