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Utah football: Murphy opts to turn pro early

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah tight end Jake Murphy has decided to give up his senior season of college football and pursue a career in the NFL.

“Ultimately it all came down to just how I felt about my ability and if I felt I could play at the next level,” Murphy said. “I felt confident in that, and on top of that I just felt it was the best decision for me and my family.”

The 24-year-old Murphy, who is married and has a daughter, filed paperwork with the NFL and received what he called a “draftable grade” back. He declined to be more specific, other than noting it had a big impact in his decision.

“I put a lot of weight onto that,” Murphy said. “Not that they’re always right. I could go higher than they think, I could go lower than they think, or anything can really happen on draft day.”

Although Murphy was limited to just eight games as a junior (25 catches for 417 yards and five touchdowns) because of a broken wrist, he’s hopeful to showcase his talents at the NFL Scouting Combine and at Utah’s Pro Day to garner more notice.

Murphy said that just knowing he’s on the NFL’s radar as someone that could be drafted was all he needed to hear.

The 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end, who was a three-time letter-winner for the Utes, was on the John Mackey Award preseason watch list this fall after earning honorable mention all-conference honors from the Pac-12 as a sophomore.

Murphy’s final collegiate season, though, was hampered by a broken wrist he suffered against UCLA on Oct. 3. Although it was expected to sideline him for the year, Murphy came back to play in the final three games.

“We will miss Jake not only for his playing ability, but for his leadership,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a released statement. “We respect the thought process he and his family put into this decision and wish him the best in his pursuit of an NFL career.”

In his official announcement, Murphy acknowledged that opting to forego his senior season and enter this spring’s NFL draft required a lot of heartfelt thought and consideration.

“This has been a really tough decision for me to make and one that I do not take lightly. In the end, I had to make the choice that was best for my family — my wife and my daughter,” Murphy said. “Although I will miss playing college football, I am very confident in my abilities and ready to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL. I am so grateful for the time I have spent here and the many people who have supported me both on and off the field.”

Murphy expressed gratitude to Whittingham, his staff and Utah teammates for their support during his time with the Utes.

“I will watch their future success with much excitement and pride,” he said. “No matter where life takes me, I will always feel privileged to be a part of this great Ute family.”

Murphy, who joined the program after a stellar career at American Fork High School and an LDS Church mission to Australia, explained that his decision to turn pro early didn’t really start weighing heavily in his mind until the season ended.

There were a lot of variables he had to consider. Among the points to ponder was his wrist injury.

“It showed me that anything can happen. When that did happen I didn’t even know I was injured. So it’s just crazy what can happen on a football field,” Murphy said. “But also it made me feel comfortable coming back from that injury and seeing what I can do with one bad arm and one good arm. It made me pretty confident in myself and in the future.”

As far as the recent hiring of Dave Christensen as Utah’s offensive coordinator, Murphy explained that it kind of made his decision more difficult.

“It actually made it harder to leave. I talked to Coach Christensen and talked about what would be in store for next year. Sometimes people say it’s really hard to learn new terms when a new offensive coordinator comes in, but I didn’t view that as a big worry,” Murphy said. “I think he’s going to be real good up there. That was something that I viewed as a positive thing.”

So, too, is following a dream Murphy has had since he was a little boy. He’s now pursuing a path that his father (former Major League Baseball star Dale Murphy) and older brother Shawn (NFL) took years earlier.

Even so, Murphy doesn’t feel like he’s necessarily following in their footsteps.

“I’ve just got to go out there and fulfill my dreams of being a pro athlete,” he said.

Murphy, who has just one semester left to his bachelor’s degree in communication, will leave for Los Angeles soon to prepare for his opportunity to play in the NFL. He departs Utah with appearances in 30 games, and 63 catches for 830 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Twitter: @DirkFacer