These days, with his high school football career over, Justin Murphy spends his time at the Belton athletic center lifting and helping younger players, so no one sees it as often.
Off the field, Murphy is a fun-loving senior whose smile never seems to stay away for long.
But that changes when the 6-foot-7, 280-pound offensive tackle steps on the football field.
“On the field, he’s a bit of a jerk,” fellow lineman Samuel Hussey said bluntly. “He turns into a totally different person. He gets real loud, he’s always yelling.
“(He’s) really physical, which is good, it’s exactly what you want.”
Murphy didn’t single handedly change the culture of the offensive line position at Belton, as position coach Scott Schroeder said, or earn a scholarship offer from Texas Tech by being nice.
In fact, when entering high school at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Murphy’s mental edge was his biggest advantage.
“Because he’s mean, he always had a chance,” Tiger head coach Rodney Southern said. “He wasn’t scared to stick his nose in there and hit people.”
Murphy has, obviously, grown a bit since then.
Part of it is genetics as his father, Jim, was a 6-foot-4 right tackle at Rice and his mother, Regina Cavanaugh, was a shot putter at Rice.
But all of it isn’t genetics.
Murphy weighed just 255 this time last year.
The way he has filled out his large frame and improved his technique as a lineman is a testament to the hard work he put in, and continues to put in, even with his high school football career over.
“He just made himself into a really good player,” Schroeder said. “His technique got better, he spent the time in the weight room and the conditioning, it really was a pursuit for him.”
“It’s also gratifying to me that a lot of times when your season’s over at the (end of the) semester a lot of your seniors kind of start to fade away,” Southern said. “He’s been here every day and he’s going to be here every day because he fully intends to go (to Tech) and play.”
Murphy, a Tech commit, will join his older brother, who played at Belton but isn’t at Tech, in Lubbock. But what has him particularly excited to hit campus in June is what second-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury is doing with the program.
“I love the energy and the enthusiasm Kliff brings to it,” Murphy said. “What they do there is really phenomenal with their passing game. I’ve always considered myself to be a more pass (protection) offensive tackle, so having them doing that really has drawn me to what they do.”
And Southern believes Tech is getting a player who will challenge for playing time in his first year on campus.
Murphy can play both tackle positions -- he was a left tackle for Belton last year, but he said Tech wants him to play right at first -- and he ought to be able to add considerable weight to his lean frame.
“He’s not a fat O-lineman,” Southern said. “He’s a lean, big, strong kid.”
And Murphy is young for his class. He doesn’t turn 18 until August.
But if Murphy has the same effect on the Red Raiders that he has had on the Tigers, his impact will go far beyond his performance on the field.
“He raised the expectation of the position of offensive line,” Schroeder said. “He raised the expectations of how you practice, how you prepare: you show up, you lift, you do those things.
“It was not here when I got here. He single handedly, through example and being vocal, he got it done.”
And most remarkably, Murphy continues to do it, despite having played his last game for the Tigers in November.
Hussey, for one, appreciates the fact that Murphy continues to work out with the team and give pointers to the younger lineman.
And heading into his senior year, Hussey hopes to emulate the leaps and bounds Murphy has seen in his game the last two years.
“He put over 100 pounds on his squat in just one year, and I think 70 or 80 pounds on his bench in one year,” Hussey said. “If I could go and do that, that would be amazing. So, that’s what I’m striving to do right now since we’re in offseason.”
Murphy, meanwhile, is looking forward to his official visit to Tech on Jan. 24 and signing day Feb. 5.
And while Tech will be getting a physical speciment in a 6-foot-7 tackle with long arms and room to grow, the impression he has left in Belton, and that he hopes will do same in Lubbock, comes from the attitude he brings to the table.
“It’s more the mental traits that set him apart from others,” Schroeder said.
Contact Jordan Mason at email@example.com or 254-501-7562