Here’s a fact: Levi Murphy is a big man.
Here’s an opinion: Levi Murphy has a big heart.
Here’s a prediction: Levi Murphy has a big future.
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 310-pound Dover High School graduate is finishing up a standout football career at East Stroudsburg University. The redshirt senior offensive lineman, who is a three-year starter and the team captain, is a big reason that ESU is off to a 4-0 start the season.
His success on the field, however, is just part of the Levi Murphy story. His off-the-field achievements might just be more impressive.
The history and secondary education major is a 2019 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar, a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete and an NCAA Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award recipient.
Murphy was also named to the 2018 Allstate Good Works Team because of his charitable activities, which include work with Read Across America, the Salvation Army, Breakfast with the Warriors, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Be the Match Foundation and Special Olympics.
Campbell semifinalist: Now, Murphy has been named a semifinalist for the prestigious 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by Mazda, the National Football Foundation has announced. He is one of 19 student-athletes from D-II, and 185 across all of college football, to make the national list. He’s the only selection from the PSAC.
In other words, Murphy is part of a very elite group.
The NFF Awards Committee will select between 12 and 14 finalists on Wednesday, Oct. 30. Each recipient will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will be recognized as members of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class presented by Fidelity Investments. The winner of the Campbell Trophy has his scholarship increased to $25,000 and receives a 25-pound bronze trophy during a reception at the foundation's annual awards dinner on Dec. 10 in New York City.
To be considered for the Campbell Trophy, nominees must be seniors or graduate students in their final year of eligibility and carry a minimum of a 3.2 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. In addition, the committee names only those who are significant contributors to their team and who demonstrate strong leadership and citizenship.
Murphy checks all of those boxes. Just ask his head coach at ESU, Jimmy Terwilliger.
"I cannot think of a better person to represent East Stroudsburg University and Division II athletics than Levi Murphy," Terwilliger said. "He has continuously excelled in the classroom while making an impact on the field, in his local community and to several nationwide organizations. He has the true characteristics of a Warrior and embodies the virtues of servant leadership.
"I consider him a culture driver, and his impact on and off the field has been immeasurable. He is a pure joy to be around, and I am lucky to coach him every day."
Based on his coach's comments, and his outstanding record, Murphy would seem to be a strong candidate to become a Campbell finalist. Even if that doesn't happen, however, Murphy said it's a "great honor" just to be a semifinalist.
“Often the accomplishments of a student-athlete are measured in wins and losses on Saturdays and the importance of academics and service are overlooked,” Murphy said. “It is also a fantastic opportunity for me to thank my family, teachers at Dover Area High School, professors at East Stroudsburg University and my teammates who have helped me along my academic and athletic journey.”
Inspired by his brother: Murphy’s charitable endeavors are not something he takes lightly. In fact, they’re very personal.
“Being a college football player is much more than strapping up a helmet. At ESU we believe that we should compete in everything we do. That before we compete, we need to be a scholar in the seat, and that we need to be service warriors in our community. The beliefs our coaches at ESU instill, along with the way my parents raised me, has pushed me to get involved with any volunteer opportunity I can.
“My involvement in charitable organizations stems primarily from my family's involvement with Team Shad, which raises money for cystic fibrosis research. The team is named for my younger brother, who was diagnosed with the genetic disease ... in 2004. Our family has been involved in fundraising since my brother's diagnosis, and I've always looked for opportunities to serve others.”
Murphy calls his brother his “biggest motivator.”
“My brother lives every day with a debilitating disease that affects his lung function, digestion, and could be used by him as an excuse for everything in his life. Instead, he excelled in high school sports, as a student and is living a successful life as he pursues a degree of his own. He is a constant motivation to me because I see what he goes through and does it all with a smile on his face."
Making time for everything: Obviously, time management would seem to be an issue for Murphy, but he manages to handle it well.
“Our head coach, Jim Terwilliger, often says: ‘If something is important, you will make time for it,’" he said. “… For me, time management is simple, if I use my free time after football and dedicate it to my family, faith and academics. Although there are a lot of late nights, it is all a part of making time for what is important.”
Returning to York area: Once Murphy leaves ESU, his plans very much include a return to his York County roots.
“My plans are to return to the York area as a social studies teacher and coach high school football,” he said. “I chose to enter the teaching field because I had outstanding mentors in my life from a young age who were teachers and coaches.
"Both of my parents are high school teachers at Dallastown High School and I've always been around the people they worked with and they had a very positive impact on my life. .... (They) showed me the right way to do things and I aim to have the same positive impact on students in the future.”
Murphy named Jeff Stover, a math teacher at Dover, as a particular influence in his decision to become a teacher.
Serious responsibility: Murphy believes strongly that, as a college athlete, he has a serious responsibility. It's a message he'd like to deliver to youngsters considering a similar path.
"Future college athletes should know that they are signing up for a new lifestyle and they will be held to a higher standard," he said. "They will be in the spotlight and will have a platform that regular students do not and they can use it how they choose. If student-athletes use their platform in a positive way, they can not only enrich the lives of others, but grow as an individual."
Definitely sounds like a big man with a big heart and big future.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.