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Forgotten Buckeyes: Rob Murphy was a mean All-American who went on to international success

The ongoing series where we re-remember lesser known Buckeye heroes.

Contrary to how it sometimes seems, not every difference-making football player at Ohio State will go on to have success in the NFL. In fact, it is a small group that even makes it onto a Week One roster.

However, just because a former player fades away from the spotlight, it does not mean that they deserve to be forgotten. Some of the most important moments and memories from the last 20 years can be attributed to the players whose careers ended with a bowl game.

This is a series acknowledging forgotten Buckeyes; an ode to the players without pictures and plaques hanging in The Horseshoe. These guys all played a pivotal role in historic Ohio State moments, and should be remembered for their special contributions to OSU football.


Rob Murphy | OL (1996-1998)

Murphy, on the right, at one of many stops along the way
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

If I am being honest, it was difficult to come up with content for the offensive line. Really difficult. Hopefully none of them read this and take offense, because my win probability in a physical altercation lies somewhere between slim and none.

It was especially tough thinking of a former OL Buckeye hero who has long been forgotten. That’s because it is almost impossible to narrow down. Most of them are eventually forgotten — at least by the common fan. It is the nature of their position. They play arguably the second most important position on the team behind quarterback, and receive very little recognition for it. The hog mollies remembered by most had truly all-time careers: John Hicks, Orlando Pace, Nick Mangold, etc.

That being said, there are dozens upon dozens of OSU lineman who deserve more recognition than they get. One in particular had a very interesting professional, non-NFL career on the gridiron.

While Rob Murphy’s name might not immediately come to mind, he was a star contributor in the late 1990’s. He was a three-year starter at guard, and earned All-American honors in 1997 and 1998. A product of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, the former high school wrestler was known for his nasty streak, but more about that later…

Unfortunately, Murphy was unable to build on his legacy as a senior, as he has dismissed from the team before the 1999 season. He was one of six players denied admission or dismissed due to academic reasons that year; a small stain on his Ohio State legacy.

Despite some academic trouble, Murphy should be remembered for having a stellar OSU career. The Buckeyes went 31-5 during his career, with two bowl victories. His NFL career was less than memorable, but he still enjoyed his fair share of professional success. After being dismissed from Ohio State, Murphy signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Playing professionally in his hometown would have made for a cool story, but the Kansas City Chiefs snatched Murphy off the Bengals’ practice squad and signed him the active roster for the last week of the season. It was while with the Chiefs that his unusual professional odyssey began.

After the 1999 season, Kansas City allocated Murphy to NFL Europe. This strange rule allowed K.C. to keep his NFL rights, while simultaneously offering up proven talent to the European league. He started 10 games for the Frankfurt Galaxy in Germany, and then returned to the states for the 2000 season. After missing the entire year due to injury, he was on the move again, to yet another professional league.

After KC released him, Murphy was drafted by the XFL’s Chicago Enforcers. The all too brief, but beautiful Vince McMahon-created football league on LSD and steroids became his third different professional stop in three years. After the collapse of the XFL, he eventually found his way back to the NFL.

Between 2001 and 2005, Murphy bounced around the league. He was on a combination of practice squads and active rosters for the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions. While never a starter, he did appear in 27 games, including action as a short yardage tight end. After the conclusion of the 2005 season, Murphy’s NFL dream came to an end. However, he was finally able to replicate some of his college success in the pros – this time up north.

Murphy signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League prior to 2006, in what was likely his last shot at making a professional impact. Not only did he make a noticeable impact; he quickly became a standout performer.

In his first season, Murphy won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award, was selected to the CFL All-Star team (think NFL Pro Bowl), and won the Canadian version of the Super Bowl: the Grey Cup. He enjoyed continued success in the CFL, and finally found a football home.

Murphy was a CFL All Star again in 2007 and 2008, eventually becoming the highest paid non-quarterback in the league. After a down year in 2009, he was named an All Star for the fourth and final time in 2010. He was also named the “Nastiest Player” in the CFL that year, according to a poll of his fellow players.

One might say Murphy was not well-liked by opponents, but that is part of what made him successful, both in college and professionally. He played mean and aggressive, sometimes crossing a perceived line. As his dad once told a Canadian newspaper, “Rob always felt he wanted to beat you so bad you never played again”.

After his retirement from football in 2012, Murphy maintained a presence in Canada. He hosted a weekly radio show for some time, before moving back to the states and becoming a firefighter in Florida.

Even though Rob Murphy’s Ohio State career ended poorly, and success was hard for him to come by in the NFL, that should not minimize what he did accomplish as a Buckeye and professional football player.

He was a two-time collegiate All-American, NFL veteran, and CFL star. Not many football players can say they played professional football in three countries. Even fewer can claim that they were the highest paid non-QB at any point during their career. Murphy can do all of that. What matters most to us, is that he was 31-5 as a Buckeye and played a pivotal role in two bowl victories. The rest just makes for a fun story.