By: Richard Obert, azcentral sports | January 21, 2016
Editors’ note: Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to live stream Byron Murphy’s announcement on Thursday. Watch video of the event here and above.
Arizona State wasn’t able to hit the in-state recruiting trifecta Thursday when Scottsdale Saguaro senior cornerback Byron Murphy announced before a packed room on campus that he will attend Washington to play football.
And maybe basketball.
Washington is allowing him to walk onto the basketball team if he wants, he said.
Chandler athlete Chase Lucas, wearing his ASU hat, was on hand without Chandler teammate N’Keal Harry, the top-rated 2016 wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com. Both announced in November they would play at ASU.
“Just seeing him with the purple hat on, it kind of hurts my heart,” Lucas said. “I wish it would have been ASU and he threw the forks up, but it’s all good. That’s my boy to the day I die.”
It might be considered one of the biggest national upsets of the recruiting season, because early in the process, Harry and Murphy made a pact that they would be a package deal. Harry and Murphy were teammates at Tempe Marcos de Niza as sophomores. Together, with Lucas, as kids, they dreamed of playing college football together.
“It was the hardest decision for me, because my best friends are going there,” Murphy said. “We all had to figure out what was best for us.”
Murphy, who also considered Texas A&M and USC, built an early trust with Washington co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake.
Since December, ASU lost offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, who became head coach at Memphis. ASU also lost safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball, who joined Norvell’s staff.
Ball was the main ASU coach who recruited Murphy.
Couldn't express how proud and happy I am for my little bro, I'm always gonna be in your corner.. much love B. You earned it @byronmurpy—
Christian Kirk (@ChristianDavon2) January 21, 2016
“The guys recruiting Byron were no longer on the (ASU) staff,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “The guy who had the opportunity to build the last two years was Coach Lake. He has the trust of him. That was kind of was the ultimate deal.
“Coach Lake and Byron really clicked. They formed a tight bond beyond football. He has a lot of trust in him. I think at the end of the day, when it came time to figure out what was best for Byron and his future, he felt Washington was the place, because of the academic programs they have in place.
“They really got involved with him early to help him get right with his academic path. They did a great job building a trust with Byron and his family early.”
Still, it was agonizing, causing some sleepless nights for Murphy, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, who made azcentral sports’ All-Arizona team both his junior and senior seasons as a wide receiver, catching 153 passes for 3,081 yards and 34 touchdowns.
He also intercepted 14 passes, seven in each season, with more than 300 yards in returns, helping Saguaro capture back-to-back state championships, while moving up a division last season.
“It came down to where I felt most comfortable with the coaching staff, where I felt most comfortable in the locker room,” Murphy said.
Mohns said he didn’t find out about Murphy’s choice until Thursday morning. He said he was shocked by it.
“I’m proud of him for making a tough decision, because he had a really good option here at home,” said Mohns, who saw receiver Christian Kirk choose Texas A&M last year and running back D.J. Foster pick ASU four years ago when Todd Graham was hired. “It’s tough for a young man, at 17 or 18 years old, to make the decision not to follow his buddies. But he felt Washington offered the best fit for him. That’s what it came down to.”
With Murphy’s commitment, Washington now has the Division II (Murphy) and Division III (Paradise Valley quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd) Players of the Year in Arizona. Bridge-Gadd was azcentral sports’ Big Schools (Divisions I through III) Player of the Year, after throwing for more than 4,000 yards, leading the Trojans to the Division III final. Bridge-Gadd finished his high school requirements in December and already is enrolled in the Seattle school, preparing for spring football.
Murphy said Washington coaches might put in a package that would allow Murphy to play some receiver.
“I talked to (Bridge-Gadd) a little bit,” Murphy said. “Not too much conversation. He is a great quarterback. I’m excited.”
Reach Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-460-1710. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.
Arizona’s top high school football prospects of 2016:
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