Christmas came early for Nash Murphy last year.
Murphy began his sophomore season as a junior varsity offensive lineman for Columbus East. But then three weeks into the season, coach Bob Gaddis moved him to middle linebacker, and Murphy started seeing increased varsity action late in the season.
“I’ve always loved playing middle linebacker,” Murphy said. “It’s my favorite position. Sophomore and freshman year, I played center, and I wasn’t really enjoying it as much. When they moved me to middle linebacker last year and gave me some playing time, I was just super grateful for that.”
The Olympians returned middle linebacker Zack O’Connor from last year’s Class 5A state runner-up team. But before this season, coaches moved O’Connor to the “Sam” (strong-side linebacker) spot.
That paved the way for Murphy to step into the “Mike” (middle linebacker) position to begin his junior year.
“He got a lot of really valuable experience (last year),” Gaddis said. “He had a really nice offseason. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and now, he’s our Mike linebacker, and we expect our Mike linebacker to make a lot of plays for us, and he has.”
The numbers prove that. Murphy leads the Olympians with 89 tackles through 10 games.
Murphy, whose goal at the beginning of the season was 100 tackles, has reached double digits each of the past three weeks. He had a season-high 16 tackles in a 48-7 win at Jeffersonville on Oct. 6.
“He’s done a nice job,” Gaddis said. “We put a lot on him. He has to get our defense lined up correctly, and he has to make plays. He’s been very consistent.”
Murphy has done that by making sure he’s been reading the blocks right and just following and reading the play in front of him. Preparation is definitely a part of that, he said.
O’Connor, who replaced three-time All-State middle linebacker Sam Dwenger last season, also has been a big help in Murphy’s development.
“He’s really helped me, just giving me things to work on,” Murphy said. “I’ve definitely looked up to those guys, and they’ve helped me learn about what I need to do and set the correct example for what I should be doing.”
Murphy also played varsity baseball for East this spring and has aspirations of playing that sport at the collegiate level. He is the Olympians backup catcher behind senior Charlie Burton, who in football, is East’s “Will” (weak-side) linebacker.
Friday night, they helped East post its first shutout of the season in a 63-0 first-round sectional victory at Seymour. This week, the Olympians host Bedford North Lawrence in the sectional semifinals.
“Defense has always been my favorite,” Murphy said. “I like hitting guys.”
Name: Nash Murphy
School: Columbus East
Position: Middle linebacker
Key stats: Leads team with 89 tackles