Oakland Raider Louis Murphy Shares Personal Story with King Middle School Students
Louis Murphy admitted he was nervous.
Addressing an auditorium full of eighth-graders doesn’t pose the same physical risks as a crossing pattern through the heart of a fearsome NFL defense, but it can cause its own kind of anxiety. So, the Oakland Raiders wide receiver did what he always does in pressure situations: He relied on the support of his family and friends. And he encouraged the energized crowd of Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, CA students to do the same.
Murphy spoke to 300 eighth-graders during a midday school assembly on Nov. 15, urging the students to heed the advice of their parents, teachers and mentors as they face the challenges that come with school and adolescence. Without that support network, he said, he might not have emerged from the rough neighborhoods of his childhood in St. Petersburg, Florida. The support, the encouragement and the memory of his mother, who died when he was 20 years old, pushed him to earn his college degree at the University of Florida before heading to the NFL. It continues to inspire him today, in his third year with the Raiders, and it’s spurring him to meet and motivate youth in the same way his mother motivated him.
“My mother is why I do what I do,” he said, “and she is why I am the way I am.”
Murphy shared his inspirational story as part of a joint program that encourages education, prevents violence and promotes a cohesive family and community life. He joined representatives of the Raiders, East Bay United and the Berkeley Police Department in support of East Bay United’s Local Heroes program, which brings law-enforcement officials together with some of the Bay Area’s top professional athletes. The program features members of both groups on its Local Heroes trading cards which will be handed out by police and sheriffs throughout the greater Bay Area. It also organizes opportunities for kids to meet with their community’s heroes.
While everybody takes a different path in life, Murphy said, almost everyone shares at least one thing in common with him and with one another—the support of family, friends and teachers, who can guide them through the challenges of life. The same holds true for doctors, teachers, police officers, NFL wide receivers, and for each of the students in the auditorium. “I made a promise to God and my family … to talk to kids whenever I can, to give them motivation and help them make it,” Murphy said.
In his remarks, Berkeley Police Officer Ethell Wilson encouraged the students to continue to rely on those mentors as they move into high school next year. Citing studies that show high-school dropouts make less money than graduates—and thus can’t afford Raiders tickets, he added with a laugh—Wilson stressed the importance of graduating. He reminded them that they would face some of the same bottom-of-the-totem-pole challenges as when they entered middle school as sixth-graders. They made it through middle school, he said, and they could do the same in high school as well. “You’re not by yourself,” he said. “You have parents, teachers and mentors to help you.”
The joint themes of education and family support run throughout all of East Bay United’s community efforts. The nonprofit group uses sports as a way to connect with students, seeking to build more-cohesive families and to encourage the healthy educational, physical and emotional growth of Bay Area youth. It has joined forces with several of the Bay Area’s elite professional sports franchises, including the Oakland Raiders, the Golden State Warriors, and the Oakland A’s to reach kids and, through its Local Heroes program, connect those youth with law enforcement role models in their communities. “Local Heroes trading cards exploit the natural bond between sports heroes and law enforcement heroes to reach young people with an uplifting message,” according to Duff Reiter, Executive Director of East Bay United. “Our hope is that they will also recognize this message as it is reinforced by their families, teachers, coaches and the other mentors they meet on their journey to successful adulthood.”
The support of his family, teachers, coaches and other mentors, and especially the memory of his mother, pushed Murphy through school and into the NFL, and it continues to motivate him today, he told the crowd of students. That support network, combined with hours and hours of practice, prepare him to perform under the pressure that comes with playing in front of 60,000 of his biggest fans or his biggest critics. “You can’t mimic the pressure of playing in front of that many people,” he said following his remarks to the students.
True, but speaking before 300 fired-up eighth-graders isn’t a bad way to start.