A smile rarely left the face of former Saguaro High standout Byron Murphy during his Arizona Cardinals introductory press conference April 28, but for good reason.
“It’s a dream come true,” Murphy told reporters. “When I got my name called, I had my family there supporting me and I had my agent who has been supporting me this whole time.
“I just want to thank God for this opportunity and everything.”
The Cardinals drafted Murphy with the first pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was No. 33 overall, just one spot behind Chandler High and Arizona State University alum N’Keal Harry, who Murphy called his “brother.”
The two played together at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe as freshman and sophomores. But both transferred after their junior seasons. Harry went to Chandler. Murphy went to Saguaro.
It was at Saguaro that Murphy began to make a name for himself as one of the most elusive players in the nation.
In two seasons as a receiver for the Sabercats, Murphy caught 153 passes for 3,081 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a cornerback on defense, he had 105 total tackles, 61 solo and 13 interceptions.
Rated as a four-star defensive back by 247Sports, Murphy received 19 offers from major Division I college programs. He eventually signed with the University of Washington.
“Getting away was the best thing for me to become a man and start learning how to do things on my own,” Murphy said. “I feel like any situation would have worked out, even if I would have stayed home.”
Murphy redshirted his freshman year at Washington but was named the MVP of the defensive scout team. He earned a starting role in his second season but missed seven games due to injury.
As a redshirt sophomore this past season, Murphy started all 14 of Washington’s games and helped lead the Huskies to a win over University of Utah in the Pac-12 championship game. He was named the MVP of the game after he recorded two interceptions against the Utes, including one he took 66 yards the other way for the only touchdown of the game.
Murphy was projected by experts as the top-rated cornerback in the 2019 draft class, and at times was perceived to be a top-15 pick. But when the first-round of the NFL draft concluded on Thursday, April 25, Murphy’s name hadn’t been called.
“It was an emotional day,” Murphy said. “Wherever I got picked I knew I was going to come in and give it 100 percent. The main thing for me was just staying positive.
“I knew my time was going to come and I just had to wait.”
When his time finally came, it was an overwhelming experience. Murphy said he had always grown up watching the Cardinals. He is familiar with the fans, known as the Red Sea, and State Farm Stadium.
He always admired the play of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. Now he has a chance to compete for a starting role on the opposite side of his idol.
“I just need to come in and get ready to work and compete against whoever,” Murphy said. “I’m trying to earn my spot.”
Murphy will likely compete against Cardinals wideout Christian Kirk and running back D.J. Foster in Arizona, both of whom went to Saguaro.
According to Murphy, friendly banter between the three has already begun. He was asked by reporters who he believes the best player is out of the three of them. His answer was simple.
“Me,” Murphy laughed. “I always tell them that.”
Murphy was overcome with emotion when he was picked by his hometown team. His dream had finally come true.
But he knows the hard work is far from over.
Murphy is expected to come in and make an immediate impact for a team that finished 3-13 last season and was ranked 26th in the league for points against with 425.
But his goals extend well beyond helping the Cardinals improve in the years to come. He wants to help lead the team to its first Super Bowl since 2009 and prove himself to his community.
“I want to come in and make an impact in whatever role I take,” Murphy said. “I’m in my hometown so I feel like that’s another chip on my shoulder. I have to show my community what I can do.
“Hopefully I will help throughout the whole process.”