All posts in murf


covering the 2011 army-navy game

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Please forgive me for the lack of posts on the website this week. I’ve been a little under the weather,* so everything else has had to be put on hold.

*On a side note though, if you’re interested in losing five pounds in 24 hours, I’d highly recommend food poisoning. It’s really, really effective.

In the interim though, I thought I’d share a link to my photos from the 2011 Army-Navy game. I know most of you have no real affiliation with the U.S. Army or Navy, but trust me when I tell you it’s one of the coolest events I’ve ever had the privilege to cover.

For starters, every single person in attendance actually cares about the game — unlike pro games where at least a third of the people in attendance couldn’t care less about the outcome.

There are also videos shown throughout the game where the Army takes playful jabs at the Navy and vice versa, which is a thousand times better than watching corporate sponsorships videos.

Finally, there’s the fact that as soon as these young athletes graduate from college, they become brothers in arms. They don’t leave college early to go to the pros. They don’t get arrested for attempting to buy large quantities of narcotics so they can make a few extra bucks during the bye week. They become service members who will likely be deployed to somewhere halfway around the world before the next Army-Navy game rolls around.

And for that, I respect the hell out of them. So for those interested, here’s a link to my favorite photos I was able to capture at the 2011 Army-Navy game.


remembering sean taylor

(photo by Brian Murphy)

This photo is one that I’ve never shared with anyone before. It’s a shot I took of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in the moments after his team emerged victorious 35-20 over the New York Giants, Dec. 24, 2005.

That was my first year covering the Redskins and also happened to be the first time Washington made the playoffs in seven years. The win over New York on Christmas eve was the team’s fourth win in a row and the Redskins followed it up the following week by beating Philadelphia — thanks largely to Taylor’s 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Two weeks after this photo was taken, the Redskins traveled to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers in a wild card match-up. I didn’t cover that game. Instead, my wife and I bought tickets and enjoyed the game from the stands.

That day, I opted to sport my Taylor jersey. Needless to say, I was thrilled when he gave Washington a 14-0 lead after recovering a fumble and returning it 51 yards.

At that point, I turned around to the few obnoxious Buccaneers fans who were giving me a hard time and said the following:

“Hey, do you mind if we fire off your cannons since you’re not using them?”

Looking back now, I fully admit that’s a completely ballsy thing to say to the hometown faithful. But let’s be honest – 1.) it’s funny and 2.) any stadium with a built-in pirate ship deserves to be mocked from time to time.

Now, everything was going according to plan that day until Taylor was ejected from the game for spitting in the face of Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman. Once that happened, it paved the way for seemingly every Tampa fan within two sections of me to start chanting and heckling me. Thankfully, most of it was lighthearted and good natured. There were a few jerks, but that’s to be expected.

Buccaneers fans couldn’t stop giving me grief for wearing the jersey of the guy who was just booted from a playoff game, and that play was also a sort of a turning point for Tampa Bay as they began to claw their way back into the game.

Ultimately though, the Redskins somehow managed to hold on and win the game, 17-10. And I got to walk away with a fun little story to tell about how simply wearing a Sean Taylor jersey to a playoff game nearly caused riot in the stands.

This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of his death and rather than sitting around being bummed out that he’s gone, I figured I’d rather remember one of my favorite moments involving one of the most exciting players to ever play for the burgundy and gold.



introducing baby mcfanboy

Just a quick programming note for the website. As you can see from the photo above, the McFanboy clan has signed a new free agent. After an extended stay at the hospital, everyone is healthy, happy and (finally) … home. It’s going to take us a little while to get the hang of this whole “parenthood” thing, so please bear with me if a couple days go by in between posts. I promise, the new guy is worth the trouble. Cheers.


10 reasons to jump on VCU bandwagon

(AP photo)

It’s no secret that my team of choice when it comes to collegiate sports is Virginia Tech.

Well, for reasons that remain unclear, the NCAA hates the Hokies so once again they were left on the outside looking in once March Madness began.

With no real team to root for in the Big Dance, I was relegated to the status of “casual observer” until my brother convinced me to join him on the Virginia Commonwealth bandwagon.

Since he’s set to graduate from VCU this May (and therefore knows more about the tournament’s most surprising team than 99 percent of us), I asked him to provide a guest blog on the top 10 reasons why D.C. sports fans should embrace the Rams.

Without further delay, here’s his list:

10. Admit it; everyone loves an underdog as proven by George Mason’s 2006 Cinderella run that swept the nation. But Mason is old news now and their season ended with a beatdown. Jumping on the VCU bandwagon now allows you to feel like one of those cool indie kids who listens to underground music no one has ever heard of.

9. I realize seeing black and gold uniforms creates a negative association in many of your minds thanks to a terrible hip hop track, but look at it this way – it’s a lot less creepy when one of the VCU basketball players is hanging out in a college bar than when Ben Roethlisberger does it.

8. Shaka Smart is, simply put, really fun to say.

7. VCU’s most famous alumni are David Baldacci and Robb Spewak from the Don and Mike Show … so clearly this year’s hoops team is all we have.

6. The VCU Rams already have more meaningful wins than the Washington Nationals since they relocated from Montreal.

Read more →


hail magazine: issue #18

[As you can see, the new issue of Hail! magazine, our free digital publication dedicated to the burgundy and gold is now out. Here is a sneak peak of my feature story in this week’s issue on Redskins cornerback/safety Kevin Barnes.]

When Washington Redskins cornerback Kevin Barnes was younger, he didn’t dream of being a professional football player. The truth is, he always wanted to play basketball.

The only problem was, at his height, it was point guard or bust in the NBA. That wasn’t really all that appealing to Barnes, so instead of being one of the shortest players on the court, he opted for a different career path.

“There’s not too many 6-foot-1 shooting guards out there,” Barnes admitted. “So I went for football.”

Once he set his sights on the NFL, Barnes knew what position he wanted to play – running back.

“I loved watching guys like Barry Sanders and Eddie George, but I never filled out like those guys,” said Barnes, who is listed at 185 lbs. “So I ended up playing safety in high school and corner in college.

“If I had it my way, I would have been about 6-foot-1 and 230 lbs., and would have been like Bo Jackson,” Barnes said with a laugh. “I would have been big, but I would have been able to run like the wind. That’s what I had in my mind, but it didn’t really work out like that. Fortunately, everything worked out anyways.”

While Barnes didn’t become the next great running back, he did make a name for himself as a highlight-worthy cornerback at the University of Maryland. One play in particular — in which Barnes hit an opposing player so hard he actually vomited on the field — has immortalized the 24-year-old.

“I remember when [Barnes] laid my boy [California running back] Jahvid Best out with a big hit in college,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “He’s always been a big hitter. That’s nothing new to his game, but it’s why I really respect him. You see a lot of those cover guys who don’t want to play physical – who don’t want to try and lay anybody out. He’s more than willing to do it. He’s known as a big hitter on our team.”

While that play might not be one of Best’s favorites, Barnes has no problem admitting how much that one play has helped his career.

“It was very important to me,” he said. “Until that point, my stock was rising as far as being a draft prospect, but when that play happened, I was able to create a major buzz about my game. Four or five games later I hurt my shoulder, but that play, as well as how I had played earlier that season, kept me on the radar with scouts and coaches.”

In 2009, the Redskins used a third-round selection, the 80th pick overall, on Barnes. Unfortunately for the rookie though, Washington went just 4-12 and Barnes saw action in only four games.

“It was definitely a humbling experience,” he said. “I knew for a fact that I was busting my butt like no one could imagine in practice, so it was more of a mental thing. Coming from college I was a pretty good player and then to barely play at all was humbling. But at the same time, I tried to take positives out of it by learning from veterans who have had success in this league.

“It is a sweeter feeling though to get out there and earn some playing time now,” he said. “It would be a lot sweeter if we were winning, but we’re going through this together. Don’t ever count out the Redskins. We’re down right now, but we will rise again.”

While the Redskins finished a season with a losing record for the sixth time since 2002, Barnes can be viewed as one of the few bright spots in 2010.

After being stuck on the depth chart behind established veteran cornerbacks like DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers and Phillip Buchanon for much of the season, Barnes found new life as a safety.

Because of injuries to LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, Reed Doughty and Chris Horton, Barnes was asked to fill in against the Dallas Cowboys at a position he hadn’t taken a snap at since high school.

“He did really good,” Hall said. “I think he can be a heck of a safety in this league if he wants to be. He was flying around and sticking his head in there so much that coaches actually said he did a better job tackling as a safety than he did as a corner.

“He’s a hungry guy,” Hall continued. “He wants to be out there on the field. He made a comment to me about not being able to get on the field at corner, so he was talking about wanting to move to safety a while ago. He’s a ball hawk. You guys haven’t really had the chance to see it in games, but we see it every day in practice. From last year until this year he just keeps getting better.”

To read the rest of this feature click here and subscribe to Hail! magazine.


hail magazine: issue #17

[As you can see, the new issue of Hail! magazine, our free digital publication dedicated to the burgundy and gold is now out. Here is a sneak peak of my feature story in this week’s issue on Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, D.C.’s favorite athlete.]

As a 4-year-old, Chris Cooley used to dress up in his John Elway jersey – complete with helmet and pads – and play imaginary football games in the backyard.

Although he was young, Cooley was as passionate about the Denver Broncos as any season-ticket holder.

“I’d bawl if the Broncos lost,” Cooley admitted. “Football is something that’s meant a lot to me from a pretty young age.”

You can imagine how Cooley handled it when Elway and the 1987 Broncos won eight of their last nine games to make it to the Super Bowl – only to get blown out by the Washington Redskins 42-10 on football’s biggest stage.

But even watching the Broncos’ most heartbreaking losses only reinforced what Cooley already knew – he absolutely wanted to be a football player when he grew up.

“As a kid you always aspire to be a professional athlete,” he said. “At least I did. If it’s not sports, then there’s something else you want to be when you grow up. But, as a kid, I was very good at all sports. I excelled at everything I played and it’s what I wanted to do.”

While Cooley knew he could play, he didn’t get a chance to play with the varsity team until he was a senior in high school and Utah State was the only college to offer him a scholarship. Not exactly the kind of start most athletes dream of.

“I always loved football and I always knew I was good at football; I just wasn’t getting the opportunity to play,” Cooley said. “I ended up starting the last four or five games my junior year and we had a pro scout come out and watch our film. He grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, I put a fifth-round draft grade on you. I just thought I’d let you know because you’re probably going to start receiving some attention.’”

Although playing in the NFL was always the dream, until that point it appeared as though Cooley would have to do something else with his life after college.

“I was going to be an art teacher,” he said. “That was the plan. I think it would be fun to do, still. It’s something that I still have in mind. It’s something that means a lot to me. That’s what I was going to do with my life.”

In the days leading up to the 2004 NFL draft, Cooley had his first interaction with the Redskins. The Powell, Wyoming, native visited Redskins Park, and then went out to dinner with Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs and a host of others.

“I was intimidated,” Cooley said. “They said we were going out to dinner, so bring nice clothes. I had a $12 white button-up shirt, some Dockers and Doc Martin shoes. I’m sure I looked like a poor kid from Utah.”

His fashion sense aside, Cooley made enough of an impression on the organization that he was drafted in the third round with the 81st overall pick. And he’s been one of the organization’s most prominent players ever since.

“He came in and had some unbelievable games against Dallas early on, plus the whole Captain Chaos thing and he really took off with the fans,” Redskins safety Reed Doughty said.

Even though his numbers speak for themselves, Cooley’s lighthearted side – whether he’s wearing booty shorts during training camp or introducing himself to the opposition as a fictional super hero – is what has helped him become a fan favorite.

“I’ve always felt really fortunate that so many people here have liked me,” Cooley said. “I’m fortunate to have been given opportunities to excel from Day One. I was starting by the end of training camp as a rookie, which isn’t common. And I think I made the most of it.

“I play hard and I think people recognize that,” he continued. “They see that I play hard all the time and honestly, for the most part, unless you drop a ball, no one really knows when the tight end messes up. For the most part people think I’m doing exactly what I should be doing out there.”

While Cooley might downplay it, his teammates have no issue putting into words what the 28-year-old means to the burgundy and gold.

“All he does is make plays for us,” Redskins center Casey Rabach said. “When we need a clutch catch out of someone, it seems like Chris is always that guy. He’s definitely someone you can build a team around.”

It’s one thing to play football at a Pro Bowl level. It’s another to welcome the world into your life as Cooley has done.

To read the rest of this feature click here and subscribe to Hail! magazine.


hail magazine: issue #16

[As you can see, the new issue of Hail! magazine, our free digital publication dedicated to the burgundy and gold is now out. Here is a sneak peak of David Elfin’s feature story in this week’s issue on Redskins left tackle Trent Williams as his rookie season comes to an end.]

Ten years ago, Washington’s rookie left tackle, the third overall pick in the draft, had what he called an up-and-down season during a very disappointing year for the Redskins.

This year, Washington’s rookie left tackle, the fourth overall pick, is equally dismayed with his debut during a very disappointing season for the Redskins.

The tackle from 2000, Chris Samuels, made the first of his six Pro Bowls with Washington in just his second season. So if history repeats again, then Trent Williams, who succeeded Samuels this year while being mentored by his predecessor, has plenty to look forward to in 2011.

“I’m hard on myself,” Williams said. “I always feel like I can do better. Even when everybody says I did great, I feel like I can do better. When I look at film, I see so many things I would like to do better from stepping right to finishing people [off], just everything. I know it’s my first year, but I want to dominate and I don’t feel like I’ve dominated. I’m impatient. I want to be good now.”

Those who have worked with him and against the 2009 All-American from Oklahoma are pretty impressed right now.

“Trent’s had some up and downs like all rookies have, but he’s done an excellent job,” said Samuels, who has worked as a volunteer assistant line coach this year. “The sky’s the limit for the young guy. He can be one of the best ever if he keeps working hard and stays hungry. He’s more athletic than I was.”

Right tackle Jammal Brown, like Williams a first-rounder (13th overall by New Orleans in 2005) out of Oklahoma, likes what he sees from his protégé.

“Mentally, Trent understands the game better,” said Brown, who made two Pro Bowls as a left tackle for the Saints. “When you first come in, you’re so worried about doing things right, you don’t look at the whole picture. He’s starting to see more of the whole picture. I was very athletic, but Trent’s ahead of where I was, especially how he moves lateral and how he moves backwards. Put some technique to that, he’ll be hard to reckon with. “

Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, one of the game’s elite pass rushers, beat Williams for a sack in his debut but said the rookie is no easy mark.

“He’s going to be a really good tackle,” Ware said on the eve of their rematch. “He’s very athletic. He run-blocks very well. He pass-blocks very well. He’s been improving every week. From the first time I faced him ‘til now, the little things that he had problems with, he’s corrected.”

Because Williams holds himself to such a high standard, he looks forward to a rematch with a pass-rusher who he feels might have gotten the best of him.

“Sometimes when they get to the quarterback, it can be a coverage sack or the quarterback didn’t step up in the pocket, but I blame myself if my man touches the quarterback,” Williams said. “When DeMarcus got a sack in my first game, that was my fault. He’s a tremendous player and I’m just excited to have another chance to go against him and kinda measure my progress from Week 1 to Week 15. I feel like my knowledge of the game has progressed a lot. We’re gonna see how much I’ve progressed physically.”

Of course, the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Williams has always been big, strong and athletic. He grew up in Longview, Texas in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house that at times accommodated eight people.

Williams’ best friend dating back to elementary school was a quick running back in training named Chris Ivory, now with the Saints. And when Williams reached high school — where he played with teammates Malcolm Kelly and Robert Henson — he was an offensive power in football and a defensive force in basketball.

“When I was young, I always pictured myself in the Pro Bowl, but I played basketball in high school, too,” Williams said. “I was a center. I was pretty good. I stopped growing when I reached about 6-5. I’d like to say I was an all-around player, but I think my defense kinda kept me on the court. I blocked shots, took charges, the whole nine yards.”

To read the rest of this feature click here and subscribe to Hail! magazine.

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