Joe Murphy, Star Gloucester Catholic HS/College Athlete, Legendary SJ Football Coach, Proud Boilermaker
William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (August 5, 2020)--Former Gloucester City resident and Gloucester Catholic Athletic Director Joseph R. Murphy passed away on August 2, 2020, at the age of 83.
Murphy was an outstanding athlete at Gloucester Catholic starring in football, basketball, and baseball. After graduating in 1954 he went to play football at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina and graduated in 1959.
According to the University, Mr. Murphy was a three-sport standout for the Bears. His biggest accomplishments were in football that he made both as a player and as a coach. During his four years (1955-58) on the Bears football team, the squad posted a 36-3-2 overall mark and won four North State Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships. In his junior and senior seasons, Murphy was chosen as the outstanding defensive player for the Bears and also won all-state and all-conference recognition.
In his senior year, Murphy served as team co-captain and was named to the Little All-American team by both the NAIA and Associated Press.
He joined the college coaching ranks in 1969 as a defensive back coach at Lafayette College for two years and then was a defensive coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania from 1971-80.
In 1987 Mr. Murphy was inducted into the Lenoir-Rhyne University Athletic Hall of Fame. Murphy was also a star pole-vaulter for the college track team. Frank Kelly, a lifelong friend, and a Gloucester Catholic Alumni, Class of '63, said Joe would put on 40 pounds to play football and after the season he would lose that weight so he could play on the track team.
Kelly said Joe was into staying fit even as he got older. He loved to play racketball and could often be found at the LA Fitness in Woodbury on the racketball courts. "His uncle, George Williams, a legendary runner in his youth, got Joe into the habit of running over the Ben Franklin Bridge in the early morning on the pedestrian path. He continued that practice up until his 60s' and early 70s'," said Kelly.
The bridge walking path is 1.5 miles one way
In later years Murphy traveled with his friend Harry Gamble to Russia to help teach football to college students in that country. Gamble was an assistant Philadelphia Eagles Coach under Dick Vermeil and was the head football coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Kelly said, "Joe was working for NFL Europe I think in the late ’80s. Harry Gamble recruited Joe and Bill Manlove to go to Europe and Russia to teach high school and college-level recruits to play American football."
Joe loved to teach, and he especially enjoyed his time spent with high school students whether it was in the classroom or on the athletic field,
“A teacher and a mentor are so important in the development of a young person’s life,” Joe said in a 2012 article written by Gus Ostrum, Executive
Director Of Development at Gloucester Catholic “The decisions a young person makes are heavily influenced by what a coach or a teacher might suggest. That young person is on a life path when he or she is 17 years of age, and you can’t underestimate the importance of a teacher’s influence.”
Perhaps his biggest influence while a student at Gloucester Catholic was Msgr. Edward Lucitt, who coached football in the early 1950s, and coach Bill Flynn, a baseball mentor.
Murphy told Ostrum,
“These men were very important figures in the field of athletics in South Jersey, and they not only coached me at Gloucester Catholic but in the midget programs too,” Joe said. “They made a difference in my life in athletics and with getting into college.”
I had some athletes that certainly were talented enough to play major college ball, but I also remember helping some football players into Division III schools,” Joe said. “I always thought it was important, to be honest with young athletes about their talent levels and to help match them with a school that was the right fit for them academically and athletically.”
Coach Murphy was especially pleased to see one of his star athletes, George Anastasia, ’65, go on to play collegiate ball at Dartmouth University, according to Ostrum.
“Dartmouth was such a great academic fit for George, and you can’t believe how proud we were that he was admitted to an Ivy League school,” Joe said. “That type of college gave George a great foundation and set the tone for the rest of his career.”
Following graduation, Anastasia has become of the country’s top investigative reporters with the Philadelphia Inquirer and has authored several publications on organized crime in the region.
Asked about his relationship with Mr. Murphy, George said,
"I was saddened to hear about Joe's passing. So many great memories. A group of guys from my class meet for dinner once a year in Gloucester and Joe was always invited. It was great to see him. He and Bob McQuillan.Great guys. Great coaches. "
"Joe Murphy epitomized what it meant to be from Gloucester Catholic. We never had the best facilities. We used to practice at the old Charles Street stadium, changing at a locker room at some nearby school and walking to the field. We took classes in the boy's building. Coach taught a health class in the basement of that building in what I think was once the gym."
"He instilled pride in who we were and where we were from. He had a lot of great phrases, usually opening with "Say, Mister." This was the one I always remember. Someone had mentioned something about luck in sports. And he jumped right on it."
"Say, Mister, do you know what luck is?" he asked.
"Then he'd pause, give one of those knowing little smiles and say, "Luck is the meeting of preparation with opportunity."
"Tough but caring is what he was. We ran the single-wing, probably one of the last high schools in America to do so. We weren't big but he made us tough and that's something we all took with us through life. And for almost everybody who played for him, that was the point. Few, if any of us, were going to make a career in sports. But sports taught you how to deal with life. He never said it, but I think he was teaching us about more than football."
He helped me get into college, sent the film to a lot of schools, and always said positive things about me. I was a five-foot-seven, barely 150-pound tailback. In so many ways, he made me bigger and better, on and off the field," Anastasia said.
Mr. Murphy served on Gloucester Catholic’s Alumni Association Board of Trustees, the Steering Committee for the school’s Athletic Fields Capital Campaign, and as a member of the Camden County Sports Hall of Fame Executive Committee. He was one of the original members of the Ray Ford Oldtimers.
He came from a proud boilermaker heritage and was involved in the building of the trash and steam plant in Camden City, according to Kelly.
A longtime resident of Glendora Mr. Murphy was married to his high school
sweetheart, the late Geraldine "Gerry" (nee Hagan) Murphy. Loving father of Mike (Pat), Chris (Tricia), Maureen Smith (Bird), Brian (Linda), Karen Kelly (Joe), and Joanne Murphy (Sam). Dear grandfather of Kait (Randy), Colleen, Ryan, Mikey, Shannon, Chris, Sean, Joey, Brian, Liam and Joey, and great grandfather of Mackenzie, Robert, and Harley.
Services are private at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mr. Murphy's memory to Gloucester Catholic High School, 333 Ridgeway St., Gloucester City, NJ 08030. Family and friends may share memories at www.GardnerFuneralHome.com.