UF's cool customer
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.
His quiet, unassuming existence on the Florida campus is over. Tyler Murphy, an unknown backup until just a few days ago, is now a very popular guy after coming off the bench and quarterbacking Florida to a victory over Tennessee on Saturday. His cell phone has been blowing up ever since.
“(Things) have been a little hectic, I guess you could say,” Murphy said Monday. “A lot of text messages from old friends and family just telling me I did a good job and stuff like that. They're real supportive, so I've been trying to (say) like, 'Thank you, I appreciate it' because it means a lot to me.”
“I've heard from some people that I haven't really talked to in a little bit, but I appreciate all the support I can get. My town (Wethersfield, Conn.) has been very supportive of me. I've got a lot of text messages saying they're proud. That means the world to me to know they're still supporting me and following me.”
Along with wanting to show his appreciation, Murphy wanted to respond with another message to his many followers, old and new Monday: What happened in the Tennessee game is now in the past; it's time to move on to the next challenge — his first collegiate start at Kentucky on Saturday.
“I'm just kind of ready to move on and start focusing on Kentucky and get out to the practice field and just get back to doing what I love to do, which is playing football,” he said.
Defensive back Jaylen Watkins put it in perspective Monday: “Tyler Murphy is starting his journey now.”
Murphy said he started turning his focus to Kentucky only a few hours after Saturday's victory over the Vols, one in which he threw for a touchdown and ran for one and accounted for 218 total yards.
“After the game I was kind of anxious to watch the film, see how I did. I was just kind of just thinking about how I would have to adapt to being the starter and stuff like that, taking on a new role,” Murphy said. “Just ways I could just really excel being a leader, you know.
“Jeff (Driskel) was the main guy, and I tried to help him out as much as possible, but I didn't want to interfere or step on toes because it was his team. Now that he's out, next guy in line, so I'm just thinking about ways that I could help this team to continue to have success.”
Although Murphy said he was nervous when he got the unexpected call to the field after Driskel broke a bone in his lower right leg in the first quarter, the redshirt junior played with poise and composure in orchestrating three consecutive touchdown drives to secure the victory.
Murphy said his preparation this week will not change much as he gets ready to make his first collegiate start.
“No, not really,” he said. “Now that I know I'm the starter, I'm probably going to do a little bit more than I have been, but I've been preparing as if I was the starter for a long time now. Other than that, I don't think much changes for me.
“I mean, I'll have butterflies, I'm sure. I'll be anxious, but, you know, I'll get out there and maybe complete my first pass. Once I get hit, I think I'll be fine. But I don't think it will be as bad as it was this week."
UF coach Will Muschamp said he is confident Murphy will handle this week (the UK game and the practices leading up to it) with the same kind of poise and composure he showed in his playing debut this past Saturday.
“Certainly, being the starter, it is different,” Muschamp said. “Knowing Tyler, he won't approach it any differently from the standpoint of being the starter. He might have a few more butterflies here and there as far as starting the game, but other than that he's a pretty calm, cool, collected guy as you saw on Saturday. He will handle it like a champion.”
Muschamp said Murphy was very calm when it was obvious Driskel was done for the day (and the season, as it turned out) and he was going to have to take over against the Vols.
“Just ready for the opportunity. His number is called, get ready to go. He was handling it as well as you could handle it,” Muschamp said.
Despite having zero playing experience, Murphy managed the offense and the game like a seasoned veteran Saturday.
He said the goal is the same going into his first start.
“(Being a game manager) is a big factor in (playing) quarterback here,” Murphy said. “We have a really good defense, one of the best in the country. When I go out there, I'm just trying to manage, get the team in the right plays, take care of the ball, make the right throws.
“I'm not trying to go out there and be a hero, because we do have one of the best defenses and we also have one of the best punters.
“If there's a third-and-long situation and the deep throw's not there, I'm not going to hesitate to throw the check-down because I know (Kyle) Christy can flip the field position and we have a good defense that can set up for the next drive for us to have an opportunity to score points.”
Part of managing Saturday's game is moving on from his previous performance, one that has brought the former no-name player considerable adulation.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.