By Dan Guttenplan
One of Frank Spaziani's first decisions in his inaugural season as the Boston College football coach last September was to announce an open tryout for all interested members of the student body.
Newburyport High alumnus and Boston College sophomore Brendan Murphy, the valedictorian of the Class of 2008, answered the call and became one of two students to earn an invitation to the Boston College practice squad last season.
"I couldn't believe it at first," Murphy said. "I felt incredibly lucky to be in that situation."
Murphy, who only started for the Newburyport High football team as a senior, spent much of his freshman year at BC lifting weights. He put on 10 pounds of muscle while maintaining a 3.7 GPA, making him a desirable student-athlete prospect for Spaziani.
At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, he could play several positions over the course of a BC practice, which is essential for any member of the scout team. During an average week of practice in-season, Murphy was expected to impersonate a player from the upcoming opponent's team so that BC's varsity starters could practice winning that particular matchup.
"It was a lot of fun," Murphy said. "For the most part during the year, I played fullback on the scout team. One of the assistants would tell me my assignment, and I'd execute it to the best of my ability. It was my job to give them good looks on both sides of the ball and special teams."
The fact that Murphy could carry out that responsibility was no surprise to Newburyport football coach Ed Gaudiano, who asked Murphy to line up in various positions during his senior year.
"He was a jack-of-all-trades in high school," Gaudiano said. "He was a big, strong kid. I know he played a lot of positions, anywhere from defensive back to offensive line. We were able to put him in a lot of places."
Murphy and David Conley, a former lineman at BC High, were the lone players who attended the open tryout to make the team. The two walk-ons were then expected to adhere to the varsity practice schedule along with all of the team's scholarship athletes. The only difference in schedule occurs in the summer when walk-ons are not mandated to stay on campus.
"At the end of the season, before the walk-ons went home, coach Spaziani made a speech to the team telling us how much he appreciated the walk-ons and what they do. It's not mandatory for us to stay, but we'll all continue to work hard and help the team in whatever role we can."
This summer, Murphy will serve as a driver for Newburyport Pedicab. He is also pursuing a job opportunity at a local Lowe's home improvement store.
Next year, he envisions he will return to the scout team. He acknowledges that, at some point, his athletic ambitions might interfere with his scholastic and professional goals.
"The level of competition is so high, I'll probably never get further than the scout team," Murphy said. "That's fine. I never expected to make it on the scout team. It's an honor."
Last spring, Murphy attended a job fair at Boston College and was offered an internship by an environmental advocacy firm. Murphy, who plans to earn a dual-major in geology and history, had to pass on the opportunity to honor his football commitment.
"In the future, I'll have to decide my priorities," Murphy said. "I could foresee a situation where it may be better not to do it. For right now, I feel so fortunate to be on the team."