On a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, the Crier sat down with Saint Anselm Hawks’ football head coach, Patrick Murphy, for a one-on-one interview about the team’s success this year.
Patrick Murphy, a resident of Shirley, Massachusetts, graduated from Northeastern University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Murphy was a “jack-of-all-trades” football player at Northeastern, playing the positions of center, linebacker, fullback, running back, tight end, and offensive line.
The Hawks head coach jokes, “I was chewing gum. If you’re in a boat and the boat starts to leak, chew some gum [and] stick it on the hole till something better comes along.”
Despite his intent to go to law school after graduating college, what was a “one year deal” of coaching blossomed into a sixteen-year career. Coach Murphy has been at Saint Anselm for six years and seven seasons, and under his tutelage the Hawk’s offense routinely breaks school records.
When asked about the program’s tremendous success this year, Murphy had a ready answer.
“It’s easy to figure out,” the head coach smiled. “We have a process and we stick to it.” After a 5-3 start, that process seems to be working.
The Hawks are on pace to set season records in touchdowns, receiving yards, and total offensive yards. They have already set numerous individual records as well, including Shane Grayson’s school record seventy-yard punt and Justin Bernard’s NE-10 career reception record.
So what is the Hawks secret to such noted success? What makes this year’s team so potent? Coach Murphy described the tenacious mindset that guided the team.
“Win this week. The only thing we control is where we are right here and right now. All we have to focus on is being 1 and 0 this week,” Murphy iterated in what appeared to be a frequently uttered yet heartfelt speech.
Coach Murphy clarified his mantra, saying, “The other team really doesn’t have a say in who wins or loses. It’s about us. That is something that has never wavered in our time here as a program.”
Coach Murphy also explained the exceptionable nature of football that makes it so different from any other sport. “Football is a unique deal in that you win with people. One player can dominate a basketball game. A great pitcher can dominate a baseball game. [But] it’s hard to find one player that can control an entire football game [because] it’s a group effort.”
However, uniting as a team of coaches and players has not been a “quick turnaround by any stretch of the imagination.” The Hawks football program has had to repeatedly overcome adversity on their journey to success.
“This is the first year we have been able to retain our entire coaching staff for a complete year,” Murphy informed the Crier. A semblance of continuity is important in establishing a regular routine for the players.
The Hawks are also “dramatically underfunded” when it comes to athletic scholarships for football players. Saint Anselm College does an excellent job of dispersing the allotted income for academic and athletic scholarships.
However, other schools have a gross misplacement of priorities, resulting in ridiculously overfunded competition. Murphy stated that, “The next closest team [in terms of scholarships] has 500,000 dollars more than us.” This would be like comparing the New York Yankees’ finances to the Oakland Athletics’.
Despite the dramatic financial gap, Murphy confidently asserted that they “can be competitive with anyone,” proving that problems can’t always be solved by throwing money at them.
To top it off, the Hawks will be decimated by graduations this year. They currently field a lot of senior players that “have been playing since their freshmen year.” Murphy said that, “These guys have gotten a lot under their belt. There isn’t a whole lot they haven’t seen.”
When asked about losing so many players due to graduation, Murphy asserted that he has “every confidence [the Hawks] are going to be successful every year.”
They have great depth of players and many talented newcomers who, with a few years in the system, will be able to produce at the same level as the current seniors. “I have faith that when [the seniors] graduate, these [newcomers] will be able to step right up and fill those shoes,” the head coach proudly declared.
This results in a very “high expectation for the offense.” Murphy acknowledged, “The guys know where the bar is, and [they] always try to exceed it.” The receiving corps likes to talk about “picking your poison.” They take pride in everyone being ready for their time in the spotlight, giving Yianni Gavalas many viable weapons.
It was clear to see that Coach Murphy has a deep fondness for his players carefully hidden beneath a veneer of tough love. “I love coming to work because of the guys,” explained the coach. “We have good kids here … I have three daughters, but every fall I have 100 sons.”
That doesn’t mean Murphy is ready to give up those 5:00 am lift times, though. His players earn that affection with every yard grinded out on the gridiron.
Murphy also commented on the importance of the Hawks fan base. “They were outstanding,” Murphy grinned, referring to the terrific turnout at the Bentley home game.
The fans have a huge impact on the game. Their unrelenting support lends the players confidence and intimidates our opponents on a routine basis. With one home game left in the regular season scheduled for November 1st against Stonehill, Coach Murphy urged, “We need everybody to come out in force and show everybody who the real Hawks are.”