ST. PETERSBURG — Former Lakewood High standout Louis Murphy Jr., who won two national titles with the Florida Gators and spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was named head coach at Gibbs High on Friday.
The announcement was made during a news conference in the school’s auditorium and was attended by cheerleaders and football team.
Murphy, 32, replaces Ja’Vonta Trotter, who was dismissed after going 2-18 in two seasons. This is Murphy’s first head coaching job. He spent the past season as an assistant at West Orange.
“I know the area and the community well,” Murphy said. " The opportunity was there so I went for it."
After becoming one of the Gators’ top receiving threats on the 2006 and 2008 title teams, Murphy was taken in the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders in 2009. He played nine seasons in the NFL with five teams, including the Buccaneers from 2014-16.
For the past two years, Murphy spent the bulk of his time with his youth football nonprofit, 1st Downs 4 Life, which he started in 2008. What started out as an annual summer camp has turned into a series of empowerment and leadership events and initiatives.
That work helped him connect with the community, and it was important for Murphy to continue to be involved with the nonprofit while coaching the Gladiators. "That was one of the conditions I had was to keep the camps and other things with the nonprofit,” he said.
Gibbs had seven finalists who interviewed for the job. Three had prior head coaching experience, including two at the high school level. Murphy’s roots in the community made him stand out among the other candidates, said the school’s principal, Reuben Hepburn.
“If Lakewood’s facilities were not available for the non-profit activities, Louis would choose to come over to Gibbs,” Hepburn said. “I know that he loves these kids and is trying to give back to the community. The fact that he wants to be a role model and a father figure is beautiful.”
The hire received positive feedback, especially among former players.
“Great hire by my alma mater,” said former Gladiator standout Shaun King, who was a quarterback for the Buccaneers and currently is an assistant coach at USF.
For now, Murphy’s focus is on putting together a staff, making sure players are academically eligible and creating some stability. No coach has lasted more than two years in any stint at the school for more than a decade. The Gladiators finished 0-10 this season, and their last winning record (and playoff berth) came in 2015.
Murphy wants to change that.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” he said.