First-round pick gives Bengals’ defense some ‘juice’

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Myles Murphy said learning from his father’s experiences in the game helped him as he was creating his own path to the pros. Now, the Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round draft pick has a chance to do what his dad, Willard Murphy, could not.

During high school in the late 70s, Willard appeared to be a promising prospect at running back until a knee injury took away the scholarship offer he had accepted at Florida State. He ended up playing linebacker at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and was drafted by the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL, but he got released during final cuts before the start of the season.

Since Murphy reached high school, Willard has played a significant role in helping his son reach the NFL dream that alluded him. The Bengals selected Murphy, a former Clemson defensive end, at No. 28 overall and plan to use him immediately as a rotational piece on the edge and in third-down packages.

“He’s been helping me ever since high school because he was a highly recruited guy, got offers from high-bar schools like Florida State, and they were a big powerhouse when he was high school,” Murphy said. “He ended up at UT-Chatt, playing a few years there and played with the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL so he’s been giving me pointers ever since high school. And honestly, really just learning from him, I’ve taken those bits and pieces of his knowledge so taking them into my process.”

Although football was in his blood, Murphy considered baseball his first love when it came to sports. At age 14 he could throw a 90 mph fastball, but by sophomore year of high school, he started the transition into a serious football recruit.

Clemson plucked him out of Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, Ga., when he was rated as the nation’s seventh-best prospect out of the entire Class of 2020, according to the composite rating. He was the No. 1 overall defensive end prospect and No. 2 recruit out of Georgia.

Murphy doesn’t regret giving up baseball.

“I was growing so fast to the point where I guess I outgrew my pitching mechanics and I couldn’t even control my two-seam fastball, and college scouts, they were looking for me at baseball but none of them were biting and the summer going into my sophomore year I got three football offers back-to-back and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna just shift my focus here.’”

Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader, and fellow Clemson product, was aware of Murphy coming out of high school and was excited to follow him with the Tigers, whom he still watches closely.

Soon after the Bengals drafted him, Reader texted him to welcome him to Cincinnati and congratulate him on making it this far. He looks forward to helping Murphy on this new journey in the NFL and believes the new addition will serve the team well.

“I’ve been watching him since he got there (at Clemson),” Reader said. “… I kind of keep up with recruiting stuff like that, so he was a really big recruit when he got there. And the kid’s fast, he’s big, strong and can play. … We can always use that in the D-line. He’s a savvy guy who has got some pass rush moves, got some juice, he can move around the backfield. He’s not scared, very confident player, you always need that and just hopefully us and (defensive line coach Marion) Hobby can bring out the best in him.”

Murphy ran the fastest 40-yard dash time out of the defensive ends in this draft class, though he wasn’t able to participate in the Combine because of a hamstring injury the night before the event. His 4.53-second time was clocked at a special workout held for him after he also missed his Pro Day at Clemson, and scouts told him he would have had a 4.47-second time if he had run it straight (he said he had his eyes closed at the start and went outside a cone).

The Bengals liked that speed and athleticism for a guy that’s 6-foot-5, 268 pounds. He can play inside or outside, he’s used to dropping back in coverage, and that provides a lot of versatility for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

“I grew up playing D-line, offensive tackle, tight end, sometimes they would split me out wide every once in a while but it was mainly freshmen in high school, hit that growth spurt,” Murphy said. “I was 6-4, 235-40 pound as a freshman and growing up all through middle school. Even in high school, we would always play 7-on-7, and I was the cover-one safety. I was playing sideline to sideline and I was always just running. On offense I was the wideout running deep routes so always just kept my speed.”

Murphy said he also brings a more analytical view to his position, thanks to his background in baseball. He always loved the analytical aspect to baseball, and now he’s tried to bring that into the film room with him in football. He considers himself a film junkie and joked that his girlfriend tells him he studies too much.

That should all bode well for the Bengals, and Murphy believes Cincinnati’s defense fits him well, too.

“I feel great about it,” Murphy said. “It fits my play style perfectly. Really, for the D-linemen, letting loose almost freestyle, just get after the quarterback. Especially for the edge guys, watching (Trey) Hendrickson, (Sam) Hubbard — really watching them two fly off the edge, letting them let loose. Day one when I get in, I’m eager to learn from them, learn the mentality of day in and day out, their work ethic and all that. I’m excited to get to work.”

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