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“There’s only one way you can do this job: 100 miles an hour and your hair on fire,” says Tim Murphy. “That’s just the way it is.”
He is sitting in his orderly office on the first floor of the Dillon Field House. Opening kickoff is still almost 12 weeks away, but activity is ceaseless, particularly with prospective recruits on the phone. “People have an impression of the Ivy League that it has a Division III mentality,” he says. “You’re a good guy, you can coach forever.” During his tenure, Murphy has seen 22 coaches at the other seven schools come and go. “I say, Listen: Our alums are like all alums. These are really smart people, really competitive people. Trust me on this: There is not as much patience as you might think.”
The phone rings. It is a prospective recruit. Murphy provides guidance on courses that might buttress his transcript for the admissions committee. (He has gone through this process, after all, with his own children.) The pool of good football players who also have the academic record to get into an Ivy school is small, and every coach in the league knows who they are.Murphy and his coaches (helped by the generosity of the Friends of Harvard Football) range far and wide to find them. Last year, Texas and Georgia each supplied the roster with 13 players; the winning touchdown pass against Yale went from a Kentuckian (Hempel) to a Californian (Fischer).
Murphy says he is not necessarily seeking a specific kind of player, but does concede, “We look for three-sport athletes. We think those kids have the most potential.” Offensive coordinator Joel Lamb ’93 says that the task during recruiting is to look beyond what’s on film and fasten on players “who will be a good fit for Harvard football, as well as having great off-the-field qualities to make them successful at Harvard.” Ryan Fitzpatrick zeroes in on Murphy’s favorites: “He’s going after blue-collar, humble kids who are willing to put in the work. Either they have overcome [adversity] or come from great families.” When Fitzpatrick was being recruited out of Highland High in Gilbert, Arizona, “My parents were nothing but impressed with the way he presented himself—especially his honesty. He’s brutally honest about his expectations of each player. He won’t sugar-coat it. You have to work for your grades, and for your playing time.”