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November 08, 2012 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-11-08

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6A - Thursday, November 8, 2012 T

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Murphy transitions well from England to A2

For the Daily
When we enter a coffee shop on
South State Street, no one recog-
nizes him.
He picks an open table near
the windows on the left and sits
down, rubbing his hands together
for warmth. Asked if he wants to
order something, he shakes his
head. He's not a big coffee drinker.
On the walk over, we talk for 10
minutes before the interview even
starts. At this moment, we could
be classmates working together
on a project, or roommates relax-
ing on a Sunday afternoon or high
school friends catchingup.
Walking around Ann Arbor,
dressed in a gray pullover sweat-
shirt, navy blue athletic pants,
and blue and white adidas shoes,
James Murphy looks like a typical
American college student.
You couldn't guess he's 4,000
miles fromhome.
Witney, England is a small
town on the River Windrush, 12
miles west of Oxford and a little
more than an hour northwest of
This is where Murphy, a fresh-
man standout on the Michigan
men's soccer team, calls home.
"Outside of my family, I miss
the countryside and being able to
walk down by the river the most,"
Murphy said. "Not being able to
see my family for months on end
is very hard, and I miss the home
comforts that everyone has."
Growing up in soccer-crazed
England, one of those comforts
was developed at an early age. A
rite of passage for many young
English boys, "the beautiful
game" soon became much, much
more to him.
Murphy, his brother and his
father would sitontheir sofa every
Saturday and Sunday watching
matches. He started playing when
he was 5 - by 8, he was playing
six-a-side tournaments and was
At 11 years old, with just one
year of local soccer under his
belt, Murphy signed with Oxford
United's youth academy and spent
three years there before trans-
ferring to Reading FC, where

he spent the last five years of his
young career. -
Things only took off from
there. Murphy - whose mother is
of Irish decent - made his inter-
national debut at just 15 years old,
when he suited up for the Under-
16 Irish National Team against
Israel in January 2010. He would
later score his first goal in an Ire-
land uniform in a match against
"I still remember the exact
dates, and it's something I'll
always remember," he said. "Not
many people can say they've
played internationally or scored
an international goal."
Murphy's success caught the
attention of Michigan assistant
coach and England native Tommy
McMenemy. After forming a con-
nection with Murphy and recruit-
ing him against schools like the
University of California-Santa
Barbara and North Carolina,
McMenemy finally got Murphy to
sign on with the Wolverines.
"I've been (to the United States)
a few times before on holiday," he
said. "I've been to Florida. I went
on a soccer tour with Reading to
Charlotte, North Carolina when
I was 15. I always wanted to live
in America when I was younger. I
thought it would be coolto experi-
ence a different way of life and get
out of my comfort zone."
But as he would soon find out,
the journey across the pond is not
always an easy one.
"Oh my God, I'm actually
That was Murphy's reaction
the night before he was scheduled
to arriveinAnn Arbor inJuly. The
end of his summer had snuck up
quickly, and the reality of the situ-
ation had finally caught up with
"It didn't hit me that I was
going to America," Murphy
explained. "It seemed like such a
long way away."
Murphy is quick to reference
how supportive his parents were
in his decision to attend college in
the United States, despite the dis-
tance he was about to travel.
"I probably wouldn't be here if
it wasn't for my mom," Murphy
said. "She made a big effort to

Freshman James Murphy has been a welcome addition at Michigan.

help. I remember a six-hour day
we spent at the U.S. Embassy in
England working on paperwork to
allow me come here. (My parents)
understand what a great oppor-
tunity this is for me and that I
should take it with two hands. It's
not every day you get an opportu-
nity like this."
Murphy is making the most of
it - and then some.
He embodies the term stu-
dent-athlete. On the pitch, he is
a menace for opposing defenses
to handle. He is quick, has a deft
touch on the ball and is always
one step ahead of his opponents,
prompting Michigan coach Chaka
Daley to rave about his incredibly
high soccer IQ.
As impressive as he is athleti-
cally, he is keeping pace, step-for-
step, in the classroom as well. He
even has aspirations of going to
law school.
"Becoming a lawyer has always
been a goal of mine," Murphy said.
"That's part of the reason why I
chose to come to Michigan - to
get an education that would set
me up for that.
"This place speaks for itself.
The balance of academics and
athletics is the best in the U.S."
When Murphy showed up on
campus, he was ready to hold up
his end of the bargain.

Murphy heads down a quiet
hallway in South Quad Residence
Hall, reaches into his pocket and
pulls out his housing card.
"Just so you know, they're
probably playing FIFA in there,"
he says.
They are. Teammates and fel-
low freshmen Zach Hager and
Nick Iacobellis sit on the small
couch pushed back in the middle
of the room.
"We always play FIFA," Mur-
phy says. "It gets very competi-
Zach and 'Nick nod in agree-
ment over their XBox-360 con-
trollers. The room itself looks like
any other college freshman's. The
walls are littered with flags, ban-
ners and posters. The Union Jack
hangs proudly above the televi-
sion. On the wall above the couch
hangs a poster with a map of the
London Underground rail system.
These are little reminders of
home, but he's also put the effort
in to fit in with his American
"I've really gotten into Ameri-
can football," Murphy says. "Zach
has been teaching me the rules.
Tyler (Arnone) got me into sup-
porting the Jets, which has sort
of upset some of the guys on the
team from (the state of) Michi-
gan," he says with a smile.
He's also embraced the culture

of the university as a whole, doing
his best to assimilate outside of
the soccer field.
"A lot of people are very enthu-
siastic here," Murphy adds. "They
support things a lot more than
we do back home. I went to my
first ever American football game
versus Air Force ... and it was
incredible. I've met so many of
the freshmen (football) lads who
live in South Quad with me and
they're really friendly. I try to sup-
port them as much as I can."
But it's always been European
football first. -
Immediately to the left of the
door, there's a single poster next
to his bed with a simple slogan:
"Keep calm and support Chelsea."
When asked aboutwhy he likes
Chelsea, he lets out a little laugh.
"It's always been them," he
says. "I think when I was born my
dad put a Chelsea jersey on me."
The central-London-based
soccer club is one of the most
prestigious, successful and rec-
ognizable teams in the world.
Last May, Chelsea won the UEFA
Champions League tournament
as the best club in all of Europe.
"Growing up, I fell in love with
Gianfranco Zola," Murphy says.
"I've always been a huge admirer
of him. When I got older, it was
(current Chelsea midfielder)
Frank Lampard. I try and play my
natural game, but if I can learn
some things from top players like
him, then that's great and I'll try
to implement them in my game."
Despite contributing just three
goals and an assist thus far, Mur-
phy has played in 17 games this
season and has found his foot-
ing in the starting lineup for a
team eager to make a run in the
Big Ten Tournament. And in the
quarterfinals Wednesday night in
Evanston, Illinois, he stepped up.
With the game level in the 68th
minute, Murphy found the break-
through to give Michigan a 1-0
victory over Wisconsin and vault
the Wolverines into the semifinals
on Friday.
Not coincidentally, in a time of
such transition, more so than he
had ever experienced before in his
life, Murphy has fittingly turned
to soccer to help ease the adjust-

"I think (soccer) makes you
very driven as a person," Murphy
said. "It's so competitive. It gives
you that winning edge that you
need in life if you want to be suc-
His teammates also play a big
role in making sure he feels as
close to home as possible.
"They have helped me and
included me, and living in the
dorms has been a great experi-
ence," Murphy said. "They're not
seeing their families either, so we
try to have a lot of fun together."
Still, part of what makes the
adjustment so difficult, Murphy
said, is not having people around
who have had the same experi-
ences growing up. Notsurprising-
ly, then, Murphy has been doing
his best to reach out to fellow Eng-
lish students.
"Lauren (Thomas), who plays
on the field hockey team, lives
about 20 minutes away from me
back home," Murphy said. "I was
shocked when I first saw that.
It's nice when you come from the
same place and have those inside
jokes that no one else under-
As we exit the coffee shop and
make our way back down State
Street, Murphy isn't prepared for
the cold. He shoves his hands in
his pockets and slightly zips up
his jacket.
We talk for the next couple of
blocks, and at times it feels like
he's the one conducting the inter-
view. He doesn't speak like an
18-year-old kid.
We discuss Hurricane Sandy
among other things and he
asks, concerned, how my fam-
ily is doing on the East Coast. His
demeanor is mature and focused,
as if our exchange is as important
as a game itself.
We let our conversation stray
away from soccer, but he brings it
back just for a moment.
"Perhaps in the next couple of
years (Michigan) could compete
nationally," Murphy says. "Even
this year, we've proven we can
compete with any team in the
country. It's been up and down,
but we're in the rightplace."
And, most certainly, so is he.

C a s RELEASE DATE- Tharsday, November 8, 2012
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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