By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Even though Nocatee I-9 Coach Rob Murphy played college and professional football with Ohio State University, the Indianapolis Colts, the San Francisco 49ers and the Canadian Football League, he prefers to be known by his current title: St. Johns County Firefighter. The crossover from football to firefighting was an easy one for Murphy to make since both careers focus on camaraderie, teamwork and common goals. In 2012, Murphy held his retirement press conference from football in Toronto and enrolled in EMT and firefighting school the very next day.
Murphy, who was born in New York and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, has plenty to keep him busy when he isn’t coaching football or working at the station. He has 11-year-old triplets: two boys and a girl, Grey, Maddox and Rowan. Murphy, who has never attended an NFL game as a spectator, does not have a favorite NFL team. His only allegiance is to Ohio State University and he just enjoys watching quality football no matter the team.
Q: What do you like about being a firefighter?
A: I always wanted to be a firefighter and a football player. I was fortunate enough to make a career out of football. If I knew what a good feeling that I would get from being a firefighter and from directly impacting someone else’s life, I would have retired sooner. Instead of the pressure of playing in front of 100,000 people, it is life and death. It is a different type of pressure, but still the same.
Q: Could you share some of the details about the strong influence your late father had on your life and career?
A: I was nine years old when I first played football. It was contact in the fourth grade, because they didn’t have flag football teams back then. My dad played in high school and in college at the University of Miami. I was originally a soccer player, but my dad wanted me to try football for one season. I absolutely fell in love with it, and I never looked back. My dad coached me all the way through the eighth grade. My dad was a tough taskmaster, an old school kind of guy, but he taught me the mantra that I carried with me throughout my career: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” His way of showing love was to say that we are all not equally skilled, but if you put forth enough skilled effort, then it will all even out. Even as a 35-year- old professional player, unless I heard from my father that I played well, it was not enough. I have two younger brothers, and we were all active in organized sports — football, baseball, wrestling and swimming. My parents never missed a game. My middle brother played at the University of Kentucky, and my parents would split up to make sure they went to all of our games.
Q: What attracted you to I-9 Sports to coach?
A: Being a professional athlete, you are very busy and traveling all the time. Now I have this opportunity to pay it forward. Football granted me so many opportunities, so I wanted to give back. All three of my kids play in I-9 both soccer and football, and I have coached five seasons with them. My main priorities are to have fun and get some camaraderie going between the players and work on social development and athleticism.
Q: Tell us about your football career highlights.
A: I played at Ohio State University for four years, and I participated in the 1997 Rose Bowl and the 1998 Sugar Bowl, winning both. I was a two-time All-American also in 1997 and 1998. I played for the NFL from 1999 – 2005 with the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers as a lineman. I was so fortunate to play with Hall of Fame players and coaches. You definitely look back and say, “I made it,” and then instantaneously think about all of the people who helped you get there. It was a cool fraternity to belong to in the NFL, and I still keep in touch with them today. I also played for six years in the Canadian Football League — three years with the British Columbia Lions and three years with the Toronto Argonauts. We won the Grey Cup in 2006, which is the Canadian equivalent to the Super Bowl. I was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman in 2006 and in 2007. It was cool because I was at the end of my NFL career, heard about the CFL, stumbled upon a team and found success. I just wanted to play. There were guys that were a lot more talented than I was, but I could play any position on the line. I was smart about it. The CFL rejuvenated my love of the game.
Q: Do you want your children to follow in your football career?
A: I just want my kids to be happy. So, if they want to work construction, great, if they want to play football, great. I just want them to be confident and happy humans.
Photo courtesy Tiffany Merlo Phelps