Sophomores follow fathers’ footsteps
It was just a year after his father, Mark Steven Murphy, a professional safety with the Green Bay Packers, left football.
The path of sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman, who transferred to IU in January, shows a striking similarity to Mark Robert’s life. Cameron’s father, Paul Coffman, and the elder Murphy played together on the Packers from 1980-85.
The Murphy household
Mark Robert was raised in a sports-oriented household, and all his siblings participated in athletics.
“Being in an athletic family, we were raised in sports,” Mark Robert said. “I had three sisters that all played basketball, so I couldn’t really get away from it.”
Mark Steven wanted him to try a variety of sports to see what attracted him the most.
“My dad never really pushed football on me,” Mark Robert said. “He actually didn’t let me play until fifth grade. He wanted me to try every other sport to see what I liked, and I ended up liking football the most anyway.”
Mark Steven was the defensive coordinator for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, while his son played there.
“I got to be around him and watch him grow as a player,” Mark Steven said. “He’s coachable and willing to learn.”
Mark Robert played linebacker, running back and safety in high school, but one stuck out above the rest.
“I fell in love with safety and obviously wanted to play that in college,” he said. “Wherever they needed me, I was willing to play.”
Not only does Mark Robert play the same position as his father, but he also wears the same number, 37, Mark Steven wore in the NFL.
Mark Robert said he chose the number because of how important his father is to him.
“I look up to him a lot because he’s such a hard worker,” Mark Robert said.
Mark Robert earned a Division I scholarship, something his dad was unable to do.
With no offers from big schools, Mark Steven played at Division II West Liberty State College.
Mark Robert said he has always admired his father’s determination.
“He’s a hard worker that didn’t go to a Division I college and still ended up in the NFL, which is a token to who he is,” Mark Robert said. “I kind of grew up with that ‘like father, like son’ mentality.”
The Coffman household
Everything was competitive in the Coffman house.
From board games to backyard football, every activity would turn into a heated competition.
“There would be times when we were playing Monopoly when, at the end of the game, the board was on the floor and all the kids were up in their rooms,” Paul said.
Cameron grew up watching his older brothers excel on the football field.
His brother Chase played tight end at Missouri from 2005-08 and is now on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons. His other brother Carson played quarterback at Kansas State from 2007-10.
Cameron got his chance to play Division I football after transferring from Arizona Western Community College.
Now, Coffman has started as quarterback the last three games due to sophomore Tre Roberson’s broken leg.
“What a blessing and what an opportunity for him,” Paul said. “He’s worked hard. He’s put many hours in the film room and the weight room.”
Despite his knowledge of the game, Paul said he doesn’t necessarily give Cameron pointers on how to improve.
“Even though I’ve played and know a lot about football, my first job is to be a parent and to be his biggest fan,” Paul said. “I’m more concerned with his heart, character and attitude than his performance.”
Former Packers teammates bond through their sons
Coming into the NFL, Mark Steven was an undrafted free agent looking for a way to earn a spot on any NFL roster when the Packers gave him a chance to prove himself.
Mark Steven said he admired the then-two year veteran Paul because of his work ethic and determination.
“He was one of those people that stood out to me because he was such a hard worker,” Mark Steven said. “He was a player you could mold your game after.”
Paul was undrafted, as well, and had earned a spot on the Packer roster two years before Mark Steven.
“We were both free agents coming to Green Bay,” Paul said. “You have to work harder than everyone else and do everything you can to make the team, which we both identified with.”
Playing safety, Mark Steven often covered Paul in practice.
“I got to practice every day against him, and when you go against the best, you learn about what you need to work on,” Mark Steven said.
Paul was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1994 and Mark Steven in 1998.
Now, they watch their sons play every Saturday together.
“Our dads are good friends, and they were good friends when they played with each other,” Cameron said. “When I was signing my dad up for tickets, he told me he wanted to sit next to Murphy during the games.”
Both reminisce about their playing days while sitting together in the IU stands.
“We’ve been able to sit with him during games and catch up on old times,” Paul said.
Having a former NFL player as a father gives Cameron and Mark Robert knowledge because they learn from their dads’ experiences, they said.
“Anytime we give advice, they know we’ve been there,” Paul said. “We’ve had the injuries, we’ve had to sit on the bench and wait our time and we’ve been yelled at. The good, the bad and the ugly of the game, we’ve experienced it all.”
Cameron and Mark Robert both reiterated Paul’s words about having a former NFL player as a father.
“I feel like I’m almost prepared for anything just ’cause he’s been through it all,” Cameron said.