TAMPA — For Llewellyn "Yo" Murphy Jr., the path traveled during his football career has been as unique as his nickname.
From playing college ball at Idaho, Murphy, 39, went from Scotland of NFL Europe to several NFL stints, including Tampa Bay and St. Louis, before ending in Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League.
Having experienced nearly every league, including the XFL, only Murphy has suited up in a Super Bowl, Grey Cup (CFL) and World Bowl (NFL Europe).
So it's fitting his next stop could be another unusual twist: the Lingerie Bowl. Murphy, the third-year coach of the Lingerie Football League's Tampa Breeze (3-1), heads into the conference championship against the Philadelphia Passion at 8 tonight in Jacksonville with an eye on the title game, which will be played on Super Bowl Sunday. (The Los Angeles Temptation and Chicago Bliss meet at 6 in Jacksonville.)
"I can't see anybody else playing in this (Lingerie Bowl) but me," Murphy said, joking. "I think I've played in every game. They even make up bowl games for me."
In many ways, Murphy and the fledgling league could be a perfect pairing. Murphy, at 5 feet 10, was often told he was too small to make it in pro football. But he proved many wrong. He won two Grey Cups and a World Bowl MVP and played for the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, returning the opening kickoff 38 yards.
"It was amazing," said Murphy, who played in eight games for the Bucs in 1999. "Usually, when the ball is kicked … I'd say to myself, 'Catch and run, catch and run.' That one, I was so nervous, I was just like, 'Catch it, catch it!' There was nothing but flashbulbs. I'll never forget it."
Murphy, who retired in 2007, has kept a residence in Tampa since playing for the Bucs in 1999. He has remained close friends with former defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland and still golfs with Derrick Brooks. He loves the area and opened a boxing gym, the Tampa Fight Factory.
So when Murphy was called by an LFL representative late in 2008 to see if he would be interested in coaching in the 10-team, seven-on-seven women's tackle league, he looked into it. And he found that, beyond the bikini-like uniforms, there was much more than meets the eye.
"I think the name (Lingerie Football League) does it a disservice," Murphy said. "It doesn't let people know what good athletes they are until they come to the game. You think lingerie, and you're like, 'Oh, girls will be out there doing powder-puff.' But they hit. They run. It shows you how girls can be beautiful and still be athletic and tough."
From Jennifer Langston, 33, who works at a Tampa infectious diseases association, to Tracey Willmer, 29, an industrial sales engineer, the team practices three times a week, often having to share a middle school field with youth lacrosse players. Their pay can be about $100 per game.
Said safety Liz Gorman, an accountant executive by day and the reigning LFL defensive player of the year by night: "I was joking around, 'You can still be cute but hit like Ray Lewis.' "
Murphy, who has played for Mike Martz, Dennis Green and Dick Vermeil — to name a few — coaches a little more like Tony Dungy. Players say Murphy is soft-spoken, even-keeled and patient, treating them with respect while tapping his vast experience to teach the game.
Murphy, whose father was a nuclear chemist, was always told to aim high. He still goes by "Yo," a nickname started by his sister, Lucretia, who told their mother he was jumping up and down like a yo-yo in his crib.
"She says she has a patent on it, so she's been hitting me up for money," Murphy said, joking. "The only people I think called me (Llewellyn) were (Warren) Sapp and Shelton Quarles. They loved it."
Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @sptimes.com.