After last year’s NFL Draft, Cole Murphy was expecting a phone call. He didn’t think he’d be drafted, but he thought he’d get an invite to a training camp, especially after the college career he had as a kicker for Syracuse.
The Valencia football product did get a phone call, but it came a little late and it wasn’t from the NFL. Instead, it was from the general manager of the San Diego Fleet, a professional football team that is part of the newly-formed Alliance of American Football (AAF).
“Originally, my agent told me they were having a players’ combine in LA … and so they told me they wanted me to go down and do the normal thing, height, weight, 40,” Murphy said. “I figured I’d go out and do field goals and I went online that morning to sign up for it and as I’m signing up for it, the GM gave me a call and wanted me to come play.”
Murphy signed on to be a kicker for the Fleet, but his role will be a little different on this team. In the AAF, there are no kickoffs and PATs, so Murphy will be responsible only for field goals.
In 48 games, Murphy became a valuable member of the Syracuse football team. He was the Orange’s all-time leader in field goals made with 59 and ranked in the top 10 for most field goals attempted (83), most points scored (295), most PATs made (118), most PATs attempted (123) and highest field-goal percentage (.711).
Focusing on just field goals felt a little odd to him, at least at first.
“It’s an interesting spot to be in. In college, PAT was kind of like a warm-up shot,” Murphy said. “You could get into the groove of it and it’s an easy chip shot, but having said that, this league is a developmental league to get you in the NFL and because there’s no PAT, it’ll prepare me better for the NFL because I won’t have time to do the practice shots. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise … I realized it was going to make me even better.”
Murphy, who worked with the kickers at Valencia this season, is currently finishing up at the AAF training camp in San Antonio before the inaugural season begins on Feb. 9.
He adjusted well to training camp life and has been working with his new teammates, two of which he played with at Syracuse. Cornerback Jordan Martin and outside linebacker Jonathan Thomas are also on the roster. He also knows several other AAF players through previous football endeavors.
“A lot of the specialists throughout the league I’ve either trained with or know of or played against,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of guys in this league that I’ve at least been in contact with.”
With limited practice space for kickers, Murphy has gotten creative with his own training. He’s been kicking field goals from the sidelines to work on accuracy, something he said he’s done since he was around 14 years old.
He’s also designed drills using soccer nets and cones. He sets up trash cans on either side of him to train his body to keep from leaning to the left after he makes a kick, which can affect the direction the ball moves in.
The attention to detail in his training is done to not only win in the upcoming AAF season but also to increase his chances of working with an NFL team in the future.
“I think the long term goal for everybody is to get game tape, make it to the NFL and make it onto a roster for a little bit,” Murphy said. “For now, I want to make my roster, make sure I’m contributing to the team and I want to make sure I do everything I can to win and make sure I am a good part of this team.
“I don’t want to be a guy the guys aren’t sure of. I want to be the guy that walks out and they think, ‘We got this one, we’re good.’”
San Diego’s first game is on Feb. 9 at San Antonio. CBS will broadcast the opening day and CBS sports network will show one game per week for the remainder of the season.