BERKELEY, Calif.– When Fred Thompson died suddenly two years ago, Oregon State safety Ryan Murphy lost a teammate, a best friend, and a brother.
“Growing up [in Oakland, Calif.], you have to be tough-minded and thick-skinned,” OSU wide receiver Kevin Cummings said, “But I don’t think you can ever be ready for your best friend to go down like that.”
But rather than let grief consume him, Murphy made sure Thompson’s memory fueled him, and that his friend’s spirit lived on through him.
“I know the impact Fred had on people. It was a positive impact–he uplifted people,” said Murphy, “If would have went the other way, a lot of other people would have went down the same path. I tried to take it the positive way and show people ‘this is not the worst.’ [Heaven] is a great place for Fred to be. He’s in a better place.”
“[Murphy] knows he’s playing [footbal] not just for him, but for his bro. Everyday he’s coming out and making plays for him–for Fred,” said Cummings.
“[Murphy] wasn’t the guy to let that change him in a bad way. He made it motivation,” said wide receiver Brandin Cooks, “He’s working harder, and I feel like he’s playing with Fred on his shoulder.”
In the two years since Thompson’s death, Murphy has developed into a playmaker and a leader for the Beavers. A constant inspiration to teammates for the strength he showed though the tragedy.
“He’s respected so much on this team for the way he puts out on and off the field,” said running back and fellow Northern California native Terron Ward, “I feel like God put [Murphy] in that position because he could handle it. And I don’t think anybody could handle it like he did.”
“It’s be so fun to watch him grow into a great player and great leader,” said head coach Mike Riley, “He really has a heart for carrying on the legacy that he and Fred brought here.”
“To see him lose his best friend like that, it broke my heart,” said cornerback Sean Martin, “To see how he reacted, it made everyone around him know that he’s that kind of person–he’s tough minded and can get through anything. People look to him as a leader.”
Murphy also wants to be a leader in the community of his hometown of Oakland. A human development and family sciences major at OSU, Murphy’s goal is to help kids avoid the dangers of the inner city.
“There’s a lot of negative things happening [in the city],” said Murphy, “Me being an athlete, another outlet for people to look at, another person for people to look up to when things get tough; I just try to stay humble and make sure I don’t let these people down.”
Murphy went to Oakland Tech High School, which is about ten minutes from Berkeley where the Beavers play Cal. This weekend’s game is Murphy’s first in his hometown since Thompson’s passing, and he’ll get to showcase his growth in front of family and friends.
Cora Wilcots, Thompson’s mother, will be at the game. Murphy and the Beavers say, just as he is wherever the team goes, Fred or “Brick Squad” as he was called, will be there too.