Jim Murphy Sr. (middle) was a Nebraska football captain in 1956. His son, Jim Murphy Jr., was a letterwinner on two Orange Bowl teams. His brother, niece and nephew are also active in the Army National Guard.
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Why Murphy, Kiffin Families Respect America's Flag

By Randy York

Jim Murphy: A Nebraskan, a Walk-On, a Soldier

Saturday is a great day for Nebraskans to honor America’s flag, respect our country’s freedom and acknowledge two Husker football-related families – the Murphys and the Kiffins.

Those two families have more than enough combined courage and mutual valor to help defend our freedom and protect our country. They epitomize the spirited devotion of a Lexington, Neb., family that found a way to mix football into their lifelong passion.

Meet ‘Little’ Jim Murphy, a Lexington native who walked on as a Husker defensive back, earning two varsity letters on two Orange Bowl teams in 1981 and 1982. Jim is 58 now and recently retired as a lieutenant colonel after spending 39 years in the Nebraska Army National Guard 

In the last 2 ½ years, ‘Little’ Jim has worked in the Pentagon in Washington D.C., studying the physical evaluations of disabled American veterans who qualify to remain in the military or deserve compensation so they can move on in their lives.

“Football teams talk about adversity, but real heroes are the ones in the trenches saving lives and protecting freedom,” Jim said. “The Army guys I know were in the trenches and in the foxholes. They cared about the people next to them and saved lots of lives. They knew what they signed up for and decided to help save the world.

Encouraged by His Father and Grandfather, Jim Grew Up Surrounded by Army National Guard

“I was fortunate enough to be encouraged by my father (pictured above) and my grandfather,” he said. “I grew up surrounded by the Army National Guard. It was an important part of our family.”

‘Big’ Jim Murphy, 82, was a Nebraska football captain in 1956. ‘Little’ Jim’s father also knows precisely why he is so proud to be an American, where at least he knows he’s free. Like ‘Big’ Jim, ‘Little’ Jim will never forget the men who died and gave that right to him, his dad and every other American.

The Murphy and Kiffin families are entwined with football and freedom and proud to represent their hometown of Lexington in two vital ways: 1) serving their country; and 2) serving their state.

Monte Kiffin Jr. was a letter-winning tackle at Nebraska in 1961 under Bill Jennings before earning varsity letters in 1962 and 1963 under Bob Devaney. Following his playing days, Monte Jr. returned to Nebraska as defensive coordinator, helping the Huskers become 1970 and 1971 national champions.

Spending an off-season day with Nebraska’s current coaching staff, Kiffin shared how his late father (Monte Kiffin Sr.) spent five years fighting in World War II while beginning his military stint two months after Kiffin Jr. was born.

In World War II, Monte Kiffin Sr. Left Nebraska in 1940 and Did Not Return Home Until 1945  

The late Monte Kiffin Sr. never became a household name in college football, but his immediate family, which included both a son (Monte Jr.) and a grandson (Lane Kiffin) are proud of the leadership he gave to his country, the legacy that he left and the sacrifice that he made.

“My grandfather was the company commander of the Lexington National Guard Unit,” Jim Murphy said. “In athletics, you want to save your friends and the people around you. The same applies to life. He left Nebraska in 1940 and did not get back home until 1945 because he was saving our country in World War II. When he did return, he became the commander of that same Lexington National Guard unit that his dad left behind. It was not easy leaving three boys behind.”

Murphy’s father succeeded Kiffin Sr. to lead the same unit in Lexington. It was tough having a dad among those called up to fight in Pearl Harbor.

“My uncle didn’t see his dad until he was five years old,” ‘Little’ Jim said. “People don’t understand or remember what that generation went through. We still have lots of letters my grandpa sent home while he was protecting us and everyone else in this country. That was part of why I joined the National Guard when I graduated from high school in 1978 and went to basic training in the summer of 1979.”

When Little Jim Murphy Returned to Nebraska, He Started to Grow and Make an Impact

A funny thing happened on top of that already big decision. “When I got back to Nebraska after that first summer, I started to grow,” said Murphy (pictured above with Tom Osborne). “Mitch Krenk grew up the same way in Nebraska’s football program. We were both skinny before we walked on and went to work. We were like every other walk-on – we saw a chance, and we went all out for it.”

Credit the “Army guys” that ‘Little’ Jim played in pick-up games during “real live” tackling. It became that one shining moment that helped him dream big and shoot for the moon at Nebraska. “I wasn’t even on the freshman team,” ‘Little’ Jim pointed out. “I just showed up in winter conditioning to see if I could participate. I was not on a roster. Some coaches wanted to know who ‘that guy’ was. They saw how hard I was working and asked if I wanted to come out for spring football.”

Jim Murphy Jr. loves Nebraska football and everything it stands for, including the way the University of Nebraska “brings out the flags and honors all of our veterans,” he said. “I love them all. The ROTC flag is important to our family, too. My dad was in ROTC at Nebraska and Molly Murphy (brother Dan’s daughter), also signed up for ROTC and has already been trained through Airborne School.”

‘Big’ Jim and ‘Little’ Jim will be on Tom Osborne Field Saturday to show their appreciation and deep respect for Nebraska’s military veterans, past, present and future.

“My dad was my hero growing up,” Jim Murphy Jr. said. “The greatest tribute I ever had was when my dad told me he was proud of me. I’ve gone through life calmly, even through combat. That flag means the world to me. We may not be a perfect country, but we are a great country, and I’m very proud of that.”

Saturday’s Big Ten Game Honors Veteran and Military Appreciation Day

Saturday’s Veteran and Military Appreciation Day features a 12-member gate sentinel that will recognize active military and veterans 22 minutes before the Tunnel Walk.

About 150 active military and veterans will be sitting on Memorial Stadium’s East apron.

During its pre-game performance, the Cornhusker Marching Band will play the Armed Forces Medley, featuring military songs representing each service branch before the National Anthem. A color guard from each branch also will be present, and the public address announcer will ask fans who have served in those branches to stand and be recognized.

During the National Anthem, HuskerVision will scroll names with Nebraska ties to honor military members who lost their lives serving our country since 9/11.

During pregame and halftime, U.S. Marines will collect for Toys for Tots outside of the stadium.

Wrestlers James Green and Jordan Burroughs and Coach Mark Manning will be introduced in the Northwest corner at the first non-Husker touchdown break, following video highlights from their latest accomplishments.

The National Strategic Research Institute will be recognized with a video highlight before the first and second quarters, followed by a live introduction in the Northwest corner of Defense Threat Reduction Agency Rear Admiral Scott Jerabek.

During the third-quarter break, videos submitted by active military will be played before asking all who are serving or have served in America’s Armed Forces to stand and be recognized.

During the first non-Husker touchdown break in the fourth quarter, Nebraska will recognize the pilots from the flyover in the Southwest corner of Tom Osborne Field.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include city, state)

Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider

 

 

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