St. Petersburg native Louis Murphy makes bid for spot with Bucs

Louis Murphy Jr. catches a pass during mandatory mini-camp Wednesday at One Buc Place. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
Louis Murphy Jr. catches a pass during mandatory mini-camp Wednesday at One Buc Place. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
Published June 12, 2014

TAMPA — It's overcast, and Louis Murphy is shying away from any contact. Actually, he's avoiding talking about his contacts, which are normally blood red and give his eyes the appearance of a wolf's caught in headlights.

"It's not all fashion," the Bucs receiver said. "It's just my little secret. I don't want to say (what it does) so my opponents can't find out what they are. I just started using them two months ago, and it's helped out a lot."

Murphy, a former Florida Gator and a graduate of St. Petersburg's Lakewood High, always had a clear vision of playing for his hometown team one day. He said he was offered a two-year deal by Tampa Bay a year ago but decided to sign with the Giants. There, he languished on the bench, catching only six passes for 37 yards and a touchdown in 14 games.

"But the way God worked it all out, this is the perfect situation to play for one of the best coaches in the NFL," Murphy said.

A fourth-round pick by the Raiders in 2009, Murphy's best year came in 2010, when he caught 41 passes for 609 yards and two scores. But injuries and ineffectiveness with the Raiders, Panthers and Giants left him searching for his fourth team in as many years.

How long did Murphy dream about playing in Tampa Bay?

"Since I was 5 years old; since the creamsicle orange days and following the Tony Dungy days and then (Jon) Gruden won a championship," Murphy said.

Murphy, 27, has turned heads since signing in March. Despite the return of Vincent Jackson and first-round selection of Texas A&M's Mike Evans, his experience and versatility give him an edge to secure a roster spot over younger wideouts.

"That's what we're looking for; guys that don't blend in," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "Like Louis Murphy. Local guy. Louis had a couple of big plays (Wednesday). Louis has been here all the time. He hasn't missed anything and has just made play after play. We have a lot of that type of competition going on of players that were in the background when I first got here that we're taking notice of."

Of course, Murphy has always been recognizable in Tampa Bay. His father, the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr., is the longtime senior pastor of Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.

The Bucs receiver also has been active in 1st Downs for Life, a charitable foundation he founded that sponsors youth football, basketball and cheerleading camps while stressing academic excellence and teamwork.

Just as Murphy has been there for his community, his hometown will be there for him this season. Having played on two coasts and taken a bite out of the Big Apple, the opportunity to be surrounded by his family and support system can only be a boon to his career, he said.

"I've been much more at ease just being at home and being able to go to church at home and be around my family 24/7," Murphy said. "To have their moral support … I've got a good family that's backed me my entire career. To be five years in and going into Year 6, it's just a totally different feeling this year."

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Certainly, the red contacts have helped. While he didn't need them Wednesday, they're typically worn to improve vision by people sensitive to brightness. Suddenly, everything seems more clear.

"It's a dream come true, growing up in St. Pete, being a Bucs fan my whole life and being able to come here and have an opportunity to play here and finish my career here," Murphy said. "There's no better opportunity in my eyes."

No matter what color they are.

Rick Stroud can be reached at and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.