Leif Murphy, from UIF to AFL
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Linebacker Leif Murphy has played for a lot of teams in his football career. From 1999-2002 he played college football at North Dakota State University. In 2003, he spent time in the Canadian Football League playing for the Ottawa Renegades as well as the Bismarck Roughriders of the National Indoor Football League. He played for the NIFL Tri-City Diesel in 2004 and in 2005 and 2006 he was a member of the Omaha Beef of United Indoor Football.
In 2007, Murphy was a member of the undefeated UIF champion Sioux Falls Storm. He had 13 sacks in the regular season as well as 56.5 tackles and five blocked kicks. He was selected to the UIF All-Star team.
While the Storm was completing its second consecutive undefeated season last year, the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League was struggling through a 4-12 season and missed out on the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Grand Rapids head coach Sparky McEwen was let go by the team and Georgia Force offensive coordinator Steve Thonn was hired to replace him.
New Rampage assistant coaches Paul Reinke and Rod Miller saw film of Murphy during the off-season and decided to bring him to Grand Rapids for a two-day tryout. It didn't take the coaching staff long to realize that he was someone they wanted on their team.
So what was going through Murphy's mind when the Rampage started the season 0-2? "I've spent the last five years basically playing for $200 a game," said Murphy, "and the winning was great, but I came to the realization that I was pretty lucky to still be playing football. We lost (the first two games), and I never want to lose, but I was real thankful that I still had an opportunity to play. It gave me a different way to motivate myself. I hadn't lost in a while, but I just kept my head up and approached (the game) from a different angle."
Since the 0-2 start, the Rampage have turned things around and won back-to-back games, scoring 92 and 84 points respectively.
Murphy has had tryouts with other Arena Football teams before, but things just didn't work out until this year. "The rule change really helped me out. Up until last year, you had to play both ways. Now there are unlimited substitutions. I decided to play defense, that's kind of my strong suit. It wasn't that I wasn't a good enough player, I was just crappy on offense."
Now that AFL players can concentrate on playing either offense or defense, Murphy feels that other players from the Indoor leagues will have more opportunities to make AFL rosters.
"There are a lot of talented people in the UIF that are smaller type defensive ends or linebackers and there really wasn't a nitch for them in (the AFL), but now there is. Maybe with me having some success, that will open the door for a couple of other guys from those types of leagues."
Playing in three of the Rampage's four games so far this season, Murphy already has 6.5 tackles, two forced fumbles, two tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Rampage head coach Steve Thonn said that Murphy has been one of the surprise players on the team this year. "In Arena Football, you have one linebacker who rushes and really just wants to bang helmets the whole game. We've got that guy in Leif Murphy. All he wants to do is hit people," said Thonn.