Nov. 10, 2009
LOGAN, Utah -
By Chet Gardner / USU Athletic Media Relations
A football is punted high in the air coming towards him. He has 11 football players running at him full speed. While this is happening, he is expected to prepare for and catch an often wobbly, odd-shaped ball and avoid getting tackled or at least avoid getting stripped of the football. This often daunting task is just a small piece of what senior cornerback and punt returner Kejon Murphy goes through each time he steps on a football field.
"I don't try to think about anything, just catch the ball first and secure the ball. When the ball is coming down I take a quick peak to see if my blockers held up, and after that catch it and try to make somebody miss," Murphy said referring to punt returning.
Murphy is an all-around athlete from Fresno, Calif., who says returning punts is not the hardest thing he has to do on the field.
"I like corner, because it's more of a challenge. Everybody says quarterback is the hardest position to play, but it's corner by far to me," Murphy said with his trademark big smile.
The Aggies knew they were getting an all-around player when they recruited Murphy out of high school where he played cornerback, wide receiver and returned punts and kickoffs. He was his league's special teams player of the year in high school. The Fresno native has been a big piece of the Aggie defense ever since he arrived in 2006.
Murphy points to a game against his hometown team Fresno State in his freshman season as a game that motivated him during his Aggie career.
"They (Fresno State) were down by a score, and they tried to attack me in the fourth quarter, and I had a pass break-up and I held my own," Murphy said referring to that game in during his freshman season which USU won, 13-12. That game and victory is considered to be one of Murphy's best moments during his career as an Aggie.
Murphy played in 11 games that season and has played in every game since.
Ever since that motivating game his freshman year, he has exerted a lot of confidence on the field and has been a shut-down corner for the Aggies.
"On defense I try to emphasize nothing happening on my side, no plays, no catches and no runs. That's my emphasis: I'm going to shut this side of the field down," the senior said with confidence.
Murphy has been a part of some rough years for Utah State football, as far as wins go, but is appreciative of the effort his team has given and confident he has given his best effort when he steps on the field.
"As a team, we've never given up, with as many losses as we've taken, we still play hard. That's one thing about the Aggies, we always play hard," Murphy said. "We never gave up, even though sometimes we were out-matched or our opponent was way bigger than us. That's what I'll remember from playing here."
Murphy had two interceptions last year in his junior season, as well as averaging 24.2 yards on kick-off returns and 8.8 yards per punt return. He had 30 total tackles last season and 31 in his sophomore campaign.
Through eight games this season, Murphy was among the team and conference leaders for interceptions as well as tackles, averaging over three stops per game.
"So far, it's been good," Murphy said. "It's been tough. It's been a battle with ups and downs. I wouldn't trade it in, I like it."
Even though the season hasn't gone quite according to plan, Murphy continues to improve as a player and as a person.
Which is exactly what USU cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond said.
"He's been performing at a good level," Raymond said. "He's been performing real good. He's getting better. That's the thing about him, is he's getting better every day."
Murphy has proved to be a good senior leader, as well.
"Because he has the most playing experience, he's been taking a lot of guys under his wing and just telling them to work hard and do all the little things to get better," Raymond said.
Murphy's all-around ability does not limit him to just the football field. "Basketball is my favorite sport," he claimed. At five feet, nine inches tall there is no wonder why he chose football over basketball coming out of high school. However, Murphy is quick to reply that he can dunk a basketball.
The Aggies are certainly happy that he brought his acrobatic, all-around skills to play for Utah State football, and utilizing his cover corner and punt return skills.
Murphy hopes his skills take him further than college.
"I just want to get a shot in the NFL," said Murphy, who is studying sociology and wants to eventually pursue a master's degree. "If I get a shot, I'm going to run with it."