Owen Murphy almost didn't play football.
An email from Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69 changed his mind.
Now, three and a half years later, Murphy has accepted a full scholarship offer to the University of Akron.
On Tuesday afternoon, Murphy announced his commitment to Akron. Murphy's journey to Division I college football has been anything but direct. His "wandering" journey began as a freshman in the summer of 2015.
In the summer before his freshman year, Murphy was not sold on the idea of playing football. The Rocky River native had decided not to play, until Coach Kyle changed his mind.
"Before freshman year, I wasn't even going to play football. My parents wanted me to play so bad, but I wasn't really feeling it," Murphy said. "On the day before the first camp of freshman year, Coach Kyle sent me an email. He wanted me to come out and see what it was all about. I ended up loving it.
"The camaraderie made me fall in love with the game," Murphy continued. "I loved everything about it. I loved the aspect of studying film and watching yourself progress through the year and becoming an overall better person through Coach Kyle and his mentorship. Coach [Adam] Rini taught me through my years here, he taught me everything I know about the game."
Murphy's football journey started at offensive line. He honed his craft during his freshman and sophomore years, primarily playing tackle. But before his junior year, Murphy hit a growth spurt and his 6'5 frame couldn't catch up with the weight. Murphy weighed in at about 215-220 pounds before the season. That led the coaching staff to place him at tight end. Murphy didn't get much playing time, only seeing time on field goals and PATs.
"We were trying to figure out what position he was," Kyle said. "Is he a tight end or a defensive end or lineman? Then he started working in the weight room, and he started filling in. We said, 'We may have to change his number!' By August, he was 6'5, 265 pounds. We moved him to guard/tackle. He played offensive line during freshman year, so it wasn't like he had never done it, but he took a wandering path to get back to it. He did a very nice job."
Murphy began the 2018 campaign as a backup on the depth chart. But Murphy didn't quit, working hard under offensive line coaches Adam Rini and Paul Yappel. By week three, the hard-working lineman broke into the starting lineup at right guard.
"I worked my tail off every practice and got better and better as the year went on," Murphy said.
Murphy enjoyed a stellar senior season, a success by every standard. Murphy evolved into a tough lineman with a reputation for putting in the work every week and delivering great results on Fridays and Saturdays.
College coaches didn't immediately take notice of Murphy's excellent senior campaign. Murphy didn't receive any attention until after the completion of the season. Even then, the process didn't heat up until December.
Murphy first drew attention from The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes brought Murphy to Columbus for a visit, offering him a spot as a preferred walk-on. A chance to attend Ohio State and play football immediately appealed to Murphy.
"That's where I thought I would end up. I figured, 'It's Ohio State, I can't turn it down.' A couple of Division II schools came in," Murphy said. "But I wasn't going to play D2, because I didn't think it was worth it."
The process cooled until mid-December when Coach Kyle once again opened the door for Murphy.
On December 14, 2018, the University of Akron named Tom Arth '99 as its next head coach. Arth has always been Kyle's protégé, dating back to when Arth assumed the reins as starting quarterback during in 1998. Arth continued to stay in touch with his ballcoach during stops at John Carroll University and the NFL. The relationship deepened with Arth became a coach himself at JCU.
Arth developed a winning program with the Blue Streaks before moving on to Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2016. Following two seasons, Arth returned home to coach at Akron.
Coach Kyle attending Arth's introductory press conference, a proud mentor watching his pupil shine. At the end of the presser, Kyle helped to change the course of Murphy's career.
"Afterwards, I'm talking to [Arth's] offensive line coach Tom Zagorski, who I've known for years," Kyle explained. "I told him, 'Hey, take a look at this Owen Murphy kid. He's 6'5, 265. He's got a lot of football ahead of him.' Tom said, 'Hey, I'll take a look.' And he sure did. Within a week, he called back and said, 'Coach, we're bringing him down here to talk to him.' They established a relationship and they offered him."
Akron was the first Division I school to offer Murphy. The Wildcats' senior ensured Akron would be the last, as Murphy fell in love with the reinvigorated football program and the school.
"They wanted Ignatius guys because they knew we have a winning culture here. They wanted me for me," Murphy said. "They were so much more enthusiastic about who I was and what I could do for them. That went really well. They invited me for an official visit, and that went extremely well. I fit in perfectly and I actually loved the campus. Everyone doesn't give Akron the credit it deserves. They think, 'It's Akron, it's not a big deal.' I went down there and saw the campus and the facilities, and it was awesome."
Murphy is the first Wildcat to attend Akron since Matt Hoyer '12. The former Wildcats' quarterback transferred to Akron from Mercyhurst in 2013. Hoyer earned Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year honors for the Zips as a senior in 2016 and attained a bachelor's degree in marketing management.
Playing for a fellow Wildcat in Arth proved to be a big factor for Murphy.
"Coach Arth knows how Ignatius guys are," Murphy said. "He's coming to us because Akron never recruited Saint Ignatius. They only recruited down south. He thought it was crazy that Akron didn't recruit Ignatius or Ed's or anyone from Northeast Ohio. They wanted a culture change and to get Northeast Ohio back involved. It's going to be awesome playing for Coach Arth -- he's another Ignatius guy. You just want to work harder for him."
Murphy is excited for his Akron career to begin. Being close to home is a bonus, as Murphy plans to stay in Northeast Ohio after graduation. Murphy plans to pursue a business degree, and help at his grandfather's store in Rocky River, Rosso Gelato.
As for football, Murphy will be on the sidelines for his first season at Akron. Murphy is still growing and working in the weight room to get bigger. A few months after the 2018 season, Murphy's build is now 6'6, 280 pounds.
"They're going to redshirt him his freshman year. Owen is fine with that, because he's still growing," Kyle said. "There are thing he still needs to work on, but he's got a huge ceiling to grow. Akron is excited because they see down the road that Owen can do great things. He played tight end, so he's athletic. He can keep working on technique, get a little bigger, and now you have an athletic tackle or guard."
Before Murphy leaves Saint Ignatius for Akron, he has a few people to thank.
"I want to thank Adam [Rini], Coach Kyle, and Coach Rubino for everything they have done. They really helped me through the recruiting process and helped me to make the right choice," Murphy said. "I want to thank Father Dan [Reim] for helping me reflect on what was the right place for me. Through prayer, we got there, and it was great. I also want to thank my mom and dad, who have been with me through everything, from visiting schools to helping me to make the right choice."
Congratulations, Owen! Wildcats fans will love watching you succeed for the Zips.