MELISSA – Melissa senior Brandon Murphy spent one season as a varsity Cardinals football player but he certainly made the most of his opportunity. Through hard work and determination, the running back not only earned the respect of his coaches and teammates but it paid off in another way: On May 22 at Melissa High School, Murphy inked his national letter of intent to attend and play football for Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Tex.

“It’s an amazing day,” he said. “I never thought I’d see it happen but I’m glad I did.”

Murphy, who transferred from Seagoville as a sophomore, spent two seasons on the Cards’ JV squad where he was “the dude,” Melissa head football coach Matt Nally recalled. Murphy moved up to varsity as a senior where he saw limited time behind First-Team All-District back Ja’Bray Young and others. But when called on, Murphy was a sure-handed and hard-charging change of pace.

“Brandon Murphy is the poster child of what you’re looking for in a teammate,” Nally said. “He’s an unbelievable supporter of his team. … He was what we consider a between-the-tackles runner, a downhill kid. He had really good hands when he got into the game. He was a positive rusher for us. When you’re sitting behind the kids you’re sitting behind, it stinks, but it is what it is. He always found a positive in everything. … It makes me feel good that a kid like that finds success the way he did.”

“My first practice [at Melissa] everyone treated me like family,” Murphy said. “I have good memories. I’ve had some bad games, but I’ve had good ones.” A particularly good one came against No. 2-ranked Argyle last fall when he came off the bench to rush for 8 yards per carry on six attempts.

The NCAA Division III Howard Payne Yellow Jackets compete in the American Southwest Conference. Murphy plans to study kinesiology while there, with a minor in history. “Everything feels like home,” he said of HPU. “It hit my heart as soon as I got there.”

Murphy counts as role models his former Melissa head football coach Seth Stinton - who became the district’s first full-time boys’ athletic director in December - and Coach Nally - the Cards’ offensive coordinator for the last three seasons.

Murphy is the son of Thomas and Frances Murphy. “He’s the first kid that ever went off to college,” Thomas said, “so it’s really emotional. I’m very proud of him. … I’ve been watching him [play football] for a long time. I coached him from the age of 3 up to 14. I finally had to let go.” As for HPU, Thomas said, “It’s a 3-and-a-half-hour drive from Melissa, so it’s all good. And we’ve got a homecoming because they’re coming to Sherman [to play Austin College, Sept. 7].”

Said Frances, “I didn’t know if this day would ever come but it did. … I’ve always looked forward to August for football games. Now I’ve got to wait till September for his college football games.”

Besides his parents - and plenty of friends and teammates - Murphy’s sister Kacy Murphy, his niece Brayleigh Long and his grandmother Pat Wallis also attended the signing event.