Deon Murphy set the tone the first play of the Calgary Stampeders’ 40-20 win over Saskatchewan Roughriders last week.
The returner scampered 50 yards to give his team’s offence the ball near midfield.
For the rest of the clash, the Stampeders had a massive edge in field position.
Other than reaching the endzone, it’s about as good as a returner could hope for.
“It’s not going to hurt to get 45 or 50 yards on a return. The touchdown on a return is going to come,” Murphy said in anticipation of Saturday night’s CFL clash with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (7:30 p.m., TSN). “Our special teams played great, and we’re focused on having an even better day this game.”
It will be an impressive feat if the Stamps’ returner is even better than he was against the Roughriders. Murphy handled five kickoffs and compiled 126 yards — an average of 31.5 yards.
Plenty of college stars have come to the CFL and, upon spotting the size of the field, declared they can have a blast with all that room. Not many deliver.
However, Murphy — the Houston, Texas, product who went to Kansas State — is among the few to have the knack.
Mainly because he’s been able to adjust to the subtle differences between the Canadian and American game.
“Sometimes, you don’t want to run full speed the whole time,” said Murphy, 26. “You want to get in the seams, get in the cracks and then get into full speed. You want to be able to hit the last gear when you get that chance.”
Murphy will certainly be part of an interesting battle against the Blue Bombers. The visitors to McMahon Stadium have an impressive returner of their own in Jovon Johnson.
You bet there will be a game-within-the-game for Murphy, who is second in the CFL with 724 combined yards.
“Not just him but every returner in the league — it’s anybody that plays my position,” Murphy said. “I know he’s a good returner and a good football player, and by watching film and watching what he’s capable of, he’s really good. But I’m really competitive and will make it a competitive game.”
The pair will meet face-to-face on the field, too.
Johnson plays cornerback and could be the man trying to contain Murphy when he hits the field at receiver — which is happening more and more often.
“Slowly but surely, it’s coming,” said Murphy, who has eight receptions for 84 yards and the touchdown he collected last game so far this season. “I think they have a lot of confidence in me to run plays on offence and get it done. I know I have the offence down at my position, but there’s always things to learn. I’m a sponge listening to the vets and the coaches.”
Murphy is smart enough to know how low-key rookies should be, but he does posses his share of flash.
It’s just subdued.
Sure, he’ll partake in some hijinx during rundown day — on Friday, he and Ken-Yon Rambo switched practice jerseys — but the real flair has been put on the shelf.
For a bit.
During training camp, he was wearing bright orange shoes. He can’t be wearing those with the Stampeders — having switched to more standard issue — but soon will don some eye-catching apparel.
“I have ordered some cleats,” Murphy said almost in a whisper as if trying to keep it on the down-low. “They’ll be coming soon and will be a nice colour and appropriate for our team.”