NASHVILLE — Shawn Murphy returned to McGavock’s football team this season — two years after he chose to hang up his cleats in favor of helping his mom by watching his two younger siblings after school. It was a break from the sport he loved. But it’s a decision he doesn’t regret.
“I take a look at the world, and it’s hurting,” said Murphy, a senior. “I want to help. Everybody calls me weird.” Shawn’s mother, Kimberly Murphy, prefers the term “unique” to describe her 17-year-old son.
“I’m happy for everything he can do,” Kimberly said. “He’s involved in a lot. He’s trying to play catch-up.” Murphy has fit in with his McGavock teammates this season. He is a 6-foot, 205-pound two-way lineman for the Raiders, who play at Cordova (9-1) on Friday in the opening round of the Class 6A football playoffs.
He starts at guard in McGavock’s spread offense and is a backup defensive end. “He’s probably one of the best kids we’ve ever had,” McGavock seventh-year coach Jay Gore said. “He has an allegiance to his family and his mom. That speaks volumes … and he loves the game. I’d bring him home and watch my little ones.”
Shawn’s older brother Chris played for McGavock as well, graduating last May. However, the brothers didn’t get to play together as Shawn put his athletic career on hold to care for his younger siblings, 14-year-old Dennis Hancock and 11-year-old Alayna Hancock.
“It got to a point I didn’t have anybody to take care of the kids,” said Kimberly, a single mother who works in management at Dollar Tree. “He just did it. He didn’t mind.” But Shawn has done more than help out by watching his siblings after school until his mom came home. When he turned 16, Shawn began working at Nashville Shores. He’s been working for the past year stocking shelves at Publix.
“He would give me his check and say, ‘Just give me $20 for the week,’” Kimberly said. “He’s helped me out a lot. You see a lot of kids going down the wrong road. “He’s unique. I’m blessed to have him.” Kimberly can’t put a price on the sacrifices and help Shawn have given to the family.
“It’s huge,” Kimberly said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. He’s just always been there. He’s a lifesaver.” Shawn also assists with Soles for Souls. He regularly leaves McGavock when practice ends and starts a work shift by 5:30 p.m. He gets home about 15 hours after his day started. McGavock has struggled to a 1-9 record, but that hasn’t slowed Kimberly’s enthusiasm, nor Shawn’s schedule.
“She’s always there (at games),” Shawn said. “She’s into it. She’ll be like, ‘Go, Shawn, go,’ … and I’ll be on the sideline.” Shawn said he models his behavior after his mother. “If you have any problems, it doesn’t matter who you are, she’ll help you out,” Shawn said. “She has a heart of gold.”
Shawn’s siblings have also noticed their brother’s sacrifices. “He helps out people,” Dennis said. “If somebody is struggling with something, he will help them out. If they are shopping, especially if they are elderly, he will help them out.” His duties as a teammate spill off the field as well. Shawn regularly gives teammates a ride home, a practice that the Raider coaching staff also assumes on a daily basis.
“He’s a caring guy,” McGavock senior running back Raeqwon Johnson said. “He takes me home. He helps me in class. He’s a friend.” Shawn added, “I’ve been in that situation when you don’t have a ride home. I have a car. It’s a blessing. I would want somebody to help me out. “Just tell me the way.”