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Tuesday October 30, 2007Louis Murphy: Leading By Example

Gainesville, FL

By Cory Walton, UF Sports Information


University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer stood at a podium in mid-April, minutes after the Gators' annual spring game, and made a statement.


It was in response to a general question about the state of the team's receiving corps as UF prepared to defend its 2006 national title, but Meyer's answer was a little more to the point.


"Louis Murphy has earned a spot as a starting wide receiver at the University of Florida," Meyer said as reporters furiously scribbled in their notebooks and triple-checked to make sure that their recorders were working.


"He’s come a long way since his first year here. He might be the best fundamental receiver we have right now."


For Murphy, a junior from St. Petersburg, the words signaled the fulfillment of one of his longest-standing goals. Little used as a freshman, he showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore and, more importantly, built a rapport with quarterback Tim Tebow that made the pair one of the team's most explosive duos. Florida fans will certainly remember a game-changing play in the third quarter of last season's victory over LSU in which Tebow froze the Tigers' defense with a play fake and found Murphy all alone at the goal line for the latter's first-career touchdown.


Now, after he established himself as one of Tebow's go-to receivers and hauled in a spring-game record eight receptions that afternoon, Murphy had earned a spot as a starting wide receiver at the University of Florida.


"It's always been my dream to be a starter and a contributor on this team," he says. "It didn't really hit me right away – not until the first game this season, actually. Being able to represent the Gators on the field is just a dream come true."


The move has paid dividends for Meyer and UF since that opening game, as Murphy, who has been dubbed "freaky fast" by members of the media, has emerged as one of the team leaders in catches and receiving yards. The catalyst for those in-season rewards, however, was an off-season training program that got Murphy into the best shape of his life.


The 6-2, 202-pound Murphy spent most of the time between his sophomore and junior seasons in the weight room, where he gained seven pounds prior to the start of the 2007 campaign. When he wasn’t pumping iron, Murphy could be found running routes and catching passes on UF's practice field.


"In the offseason, you have to get in the foxhole," he says. "You have to dig in and give your all for the person next to you. You're part of a team, and one way to make that team better is to make yourself the best player you can be."


That mentality has led to additional praise from the Gators' head coach.


"I don’t know if I've ever coached a guy who has changed so much," Meyer says. "His seriousness, his attention to detail, the way he takes care of his body and the respect he has for his family are all first-class. He really went after it this spring."


Murphy's development over the last year hasn't been solely on the football field, though. In a program that prides itself on the character and integrity of its individuals, Murphy has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches away from the gridiron.


"He's becoming a man, he's maturing,” says Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, who has watched Murphy emerge from a special-teamer to playmaker during his tenure in Gainesville. "Sometimes young men come into a program and get a huge reality check. That happened to Louis as a freshman, but he has committed himself to Florida football and both he and the team are better for that."


In Murphy's eyes, he hasn't yet reached the limits of his own potential. In fact, he didn't see Meyer's post-spring game statement as an end, but rather as a beginning to the next chapter of his career.


"You always want to go out there and get better, every single day," Murphy says. "The first time you get complacent and think that you don't have to work, that's when people pass you by. I know that I can keep on improving, and I owe it to my teammates and coaches to do that as much as I owe it to myself."



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