GAINESVILLE -- Tyler Murphy never pictured himself standing at a podium and addressing the media after a collegiate game.
Will Muschamp never did either.
Just last spring, as Jeff Driskel — No. 20 Florida’s incumbent starter now sidelined for the season with a broken leg — and Jacoby Brissett, a recent transfer to North Carolina State, battled for Florida’s starting job, Muschamp was asked about Murphy’s prospects in the quarterback competition.
“Right now, none,” Muschamp said.
But circumstances can change dramatically in college football.
Brissett transferred this offseason, thrusting Murphy into Florida’s definitive backup role. Then, after Driskel went down early in the first quarter of Saturday’s win against Tennessee, suddenly, unexpectedly, it was Murphy’s turn.
“It was in the back of my mind that I might never play,” he said. “People wanted me to change positions. I like playing quarterback. I had people telling me to transfer. It’s something I considered. But my dad encouraged me to stay.”
For at least one day, Gators fans were quite thankful.
Between all the laughable follies in the first half of Florida’s 31-17 victory, Murphy — a redshirt junior — emerged as an unlikely hero.
He threw for 134 yards and a touchdown, adding another 84 yards and a score on the ground. He was confident, poised, slippery and displayed no signs of never having taken a meaningful collegiate snap.
“I told our team what a great example he is,” Muschamp said. “There’s not many guys like that in this society. Everybody wants it now. He’s a guy that’s worked extremely hard, and he cashed in his opportunity [Saturday]. We look forward to seeing him play the rest of the year.”
Murphy will make his first career start next weekend on the road at Kentucky.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted it, but an opportunity is an opportunity,” Murphy said.
According to the Murphy, he never left Gainesville because he loves Florida — the school, his friends and now, his team.
His route to UF was as improbable as Saturday’s performance. An unheralded two-star prospect, Murphy essentially recruited the Gators — not the other way around. The former Temple commit sent film to former UF coaches Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio. Florida’s offensive gurus were impressed, and Murphy was a late edition to the 2010 signing class.
Despite sitting behind as many as five quarterbacks — Driskel, Brissett, John Brantley, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton — Murphy’s attitude never wavered. Neither did his commitment to studying, practicing and always staying ready.
“He’s selfless and that’s his greatest attribute,” center Jonotthan Harrison said. “That’s what I love about him.”