Tyler Murphy knew Jacoby Brissett just needed a chance. Same for Brissett with Murphy, his close friend and former teammate at the University of Florida.
Both quarterbacks ended up in the ACC. Both have had early success with their respective new teams, Brissett at N.C. State and Murphy at Boston College.
That they’ll square off against each other on Saturday, in one of the most important games of the season for both teams, is a little surreal to both players.
“It’s something you would never really think would happen,” Murphy said.
There was no reason to think their career paths would ever intertwine in the ACC. Murphy got to Florida in 2010, coach Urban Meyer’s last season with the Gators, a year after Tim Tebow’s decorated career ended and two years after the Gators won their second national title under Meyer.
Brissett enrolled a year later, recruited by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis for coach Will Muschamp. Brissett and Murphy quickly developed a friendship, “like brothers,” Murphy said.
Brissett came in as a hot shot, a top 100 national recruit from West Palm Beach, Fla. Murphy was just a two-star recruit from Wethersfield, Conn.
Neither could supplant Muschamp’s choice, Jeff Driskel as the starter. Driskel helped the Gators to an 11-2 season in 2012 and a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
Brissett and Murphy talk almost daily but the Gators are not on the list of conversation topics.
“We really never talk about them,” Brissett said.
Murphy said it was a difficult situation for Brissett at Florida, especially after Weis left for Kansas following Brissett’s first season.
“They went with Jeff and he did a good job,” Murphy said. “After you win 11 games and go to the Sugar Bowl, it’s tough to re-open the job.”
Brissett transferred to N.C. State after the 2012 season and sat out the 2013 season under NCAA rules.
“It all worked out in the end,” Murphy said. “I’m sure Jacoby has no regrets.”
Murphy stayed and started six games for the Gators in 2013, after Driskel got hurt. Murphy graduated last spring and transferred to Boston College, where he was eligible to play immediately.
While Brissett has been one of the best passing quarterbacks in the ACC this season, Murphy has been one of the best runners, regardless of position.
Murphy, who’s 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds, ranks third in the ACC in rushing with 579 yards in five games. He ran for 191 yards in a 37-31 upset of then-No. 9 ranked Southern California on Sept. 13.
“That was the experience of a lifetime,” Murphy said. “It showed as a team, we can be really good as long as we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Brissett knew Murphy was particularly pumped after the upset over the Trojans.
“You could just tell he was happy where he was at that moment in his life,” Brissett said.
Murphy watched N.C. State’s game with No. 1 Florida State on Sept. 27 and had hoped his friend would be able to pull off a similar upset. Brissett threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns, and led the Wolfpack to a 24-7 first-quarter lead but the Seminoles were able to come back for a 56-41 lead.
“I was really happy for him,” Murphy said. “They lost but he had chance to show what he was made of for a national audience.”
The two have been looking forward to Saturday’s game since Murphy chose Boston College, whose coach, Steve Addazio, was the offensive coordinator at Florida in 2010.
“For me and Murph it will be awkward for the first couple minutes of warmups,” Brissett said.
Murphy said it will be like playing pickup basketball against your younger brother.
“You don’t want to lose, especially to someone you see as a brother,” Murphy said. “But after, we’ll both still be friends.”