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QB took the long way home

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- As the college football clock of Tyler Murphy winds down, Boston College coach Steve Addazio's urge to lament what could have been is ratcheting up.

He wants more time with his fifth-year quarterback, whose football odyssey exposed him to a who's who of notable football coaches including Randy Edsall, Doug Marrone, Al Golden, Urban Meyer, Charlie Weis and Will Muschamp.

The journey continues Saturday when BC takes on undefeated and Florida State (ranked No. 3) and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston in Tallahassee (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2).

Winston is also counting down his final college days, but that's because he will likely forgo his remaining eligibility for the plush coffers of the NFL, which await him in spite of a series of unseemly off-the-field issues.

It is unlikely Tyler Murphy will be drafted. That, said his coach, is what frustrates him about his lack of eligibility.

"I wish I had another year with Tyler,'' Addazio said. "He's a really young quarterback because he didn't get a chance to play, which is the real shame of it. He's developing all the time but he's running out [of time].

"He's a guy who can beat you with his feet, he throws a great ball and he loves football. I think you haven't seen the best of him yet.

"But it's a position that requires you to play to develop. The kid had three different [offensive] coordinators at Florida, which is a lot of different guys with different styles and different ideas.''

In his lone season at BC, Murphy has led the Eagles to a 6-4 (bowl eligible) record with nine throwing touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns. He has already shattered Doug Flutie's school record quarterback career rushing mark of 939 yards. Murphy has gained 1,011 yards in one season.

Even so, the quarterback remains a work in progress. He has run the gamut from electric in the upset of then-No. 9 USC (13 carries for 191 yards and a TD) to vexing in a loss two weeks ago to Louisville (four interceptions). His nine throwing TDs are offset by the 10 passes that have been picked off. The issue, says Addazio, is as much about repetition (or lack thereof) as anything.

"If he had a couple of more years, he'd be really dynamic,'' Addazio said. "He's dynamic now but the other part of his game -- the reads, the experience -- would continue to grow.

"I hope someone gives him a chance. He's a great athlete, a great kid, and I see so many of these guys that get opportunities who are marginal guys.''

Addazio has made coaching stops at Florida, Temple, Indiana, Syracuse and Notre Dame. He believes college football is increasingly being held hostage by individuals with pro-level talent who have made preserving the team component "a struggle," he says.

"We're part of the problem as coaches,'' Addazio said. "We get seduced by talent. There are kids out there like Tyler who stand for everything that's right. We preach character -- we're all about that -- but sometimes we let talent [overtake us].

"I'm a believer that you can get so much out of a talented kid with great character. If you have a team full of those guys, you have a real team.

"That's what doesn't fire me up about the NFL," he said. "Are they teams or are they just a bunch of good players? It never appealed to me to coach in the NFL for that reason. I hear about, 'You can't coach that guy hard because he makes more money than you.' I mean, what are we talking about here?

"I want our team to be about BC," he said. "There's a reason we don't put our names on our jersey. I don't want the individual things, the [chest pounding], all these celebrations.

"All that five-star, four-star stuff, it's all garbage," he said. "Give me a group of guys that have ability but also unbelievable character and desire and put them together and let's go fight the fight.

"You gotta have enough talent. We're not naive to that. But we're going to err on the side of Tyler Murphy, and that's just the way it is.''

***

When Tyler Murphy was young he became fixated on Matt Ryan, the gifted quarterback from Boston College, and dreamed of playing at the Heights someday.

He got there, but it has been a circuitous route littered with disappointment.

Murphy played quarterback for Wethersfield (Connecticut) High School but nobody paid much mind until his senior year when most major college programs had already made their commitments.

One afternoon against Tolland, Murphy, an all-state return man, scored six touchdowns -- one passing, three rushing, one on a kickoff return and one on a punt return.

"And that doesn't count the interception he returned for a touchdown that got called back on a penalty,'' Wethersfield coach John Campanello said.

College coaches, enamored with his athleticism (Murphy won the Open State track meet with a triple jump of 46 feet, 7 inches), came around for a second look. Edsall, who was building the UConn program at the time, met with Murphy and his father for nearly three hours and emerged offering him a full scholarship to play safety.

"It was a little disappointing,'' Peter Murphy said. "Tyler was not a defensive player. I'm 54 years old and I could probably beat my son on a post play.''

Murphy went to the Syracuse camp and coach Doug Marrone was impressed. Would Murphy consider playing receiver? Al Golden was at Temple and liked the kid in an all-purpose role. He'd consider Tyler at quarterback, but the only program that pursued him solely at that position was Fordham, which enlisted John Skelton, the fifth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2010 draft, to host his visit.

The call from Boston College didn't come. Murphy's father inquired about attending the Eagles' camp, but he was told it was full.

"They weren't interested," Tyler Murphy said. "I wasn't a highly recruited player."

But then, out of nowhere, came Florida. Tim Tebow was in his final season, with John Brantley set as his successor, and the Gators were struggling to attract high-profile recruits at the position. Addazio, a Connecticut native who was Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator, saw a tape of Murphy, loved his athleticism and advised Meyer, "We should roll on this guy."

Murphy was stunned by the call, which came in January. He had committed to Temple, so he informed Golden of the Gators' offer to visit.

Golden gave his blessing, but warned Murphy, "They bring in a lot of quarterbacks. It will be hard to get time there."

The whirlwind courtship with Florida was surreal. Murphy had never experienced the feel of a major SEC powerhouse. He learned how much football mattered in Gainesville when he changed his Facebook status to "It's great to be a Gator.''

"It just blew up," Murphy said. "I was kind of a like a deer in the headlights. I wasn't used to that kind of attention."

Addazio worked intently with the freshman QB and told him to stay ready. If the Gators blew out the Miami (Ohio) team in Game 1, there might be some minutes for Murphy if the lead was substantial enough.

It wasn't. Although Florida eventually won 34-12, Murphy didn't get into that game or any others. He was redshirted with promise of great things to come.

But then Meyer stunned everyone by taking a leave of absence and Addazio left when they gave the head job to Muschamp. The new coordinator was Weis, who demoted Murphy to the scout team.

"Charlie Weis likes 6-foot-5 guys like Brady Quinn," Peter Murphy said. "At 6-foot-5 you've got to lose the job. At 5-foot-11, you've got to win it."

Weis left a year later for Kansas and Brent Pease replaced him. As Golden predicted, the QB depth chart at Florida began getting crowded. There was 6-4 Jacoby Brissett of West Palm and 6-4 Jeff Driskel of Oviedo, Florida. Both were listed ahead of Murphy.

"He handled it so great," Florida receiver Valdez Showers said. "Stayed humble, worked harder. Nobody was in the film room more than him."

In January of 2013, Brissett transferred to NC State, leaving Murphy as Driskel's backup.

His opportunity came last fall when Driskel broke his leg against Tennessee with Florida trailing 7-0. Murphy threw for 134 yards and a TD and rushed for 84 yards and another score to lead the Gators to a 31-17 win.

Two more wins followed against Kentucky and Arkansas, a game in which he threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

But when he injured his shoulder in a loss to LSU, it all began to unravel. Murphy knew the injury was problematic -- "by the end of the game I couldn't even get my shoulder pads off," he said -- but he had waited too long for his chance only to sit himself down.

He took cortisone shots before each game and tried to soldier on. Murphy said his shoulder was so numb from the injections "I couldn't tell whether I was throwing hard or soft. It was a guessing game how much to put on the ball."

His results were dismal. Florida lost its final seven games, with Murphy at the helm for four of them. Muschamp finally sat him down after a 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt.

"No excuses," Murphy said. "I didn't play well enough."

Murphy could transfer anywhere as a graduate student without sitting out. He consulted Brissett on the process, then informed Muschamp he wouldn't be back.

"I wanted to go to a place where people believed in me," he said.

Murphy went from a climate where college football is everything to a New England region where, as Murphy explained, football is "one of many things." Muschamp later claimed he was "shocked" by his quarterback's exodus. The inevitable backlash followed.

"My son did everything they asked him to down there," Peter Murphy said. "He went to class, he worked on the scout team, he entertained recruits, he never did drugs, never got in trouble and never complained.

"He had one more shot. All that stuff about being a traitor, or not a 'true Gator,' is just unfair."

Murphy can't help but glance back at Gainesville from time to time. Driskel got off to a rocky start, prompting Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith to call for his benching.

Murphy sent Driskel a text offering support.

"I've been there before, when you're taking so much heat and the walls start closing in on you," he said

Florida is 5-4 and still not bowl eligible. Driskel is benched and Muschamp is out as coach next season.

What if Meyer had stayed? What if Murphy hadn't hurt his shoulder? What if BC had recruited him in the first place?

"I don't know what happened down in Florida," said high school coach Campanello. "All I know is when I watch the BC games I say, 'That's what he did for us.'"

What he's done for BC is continue the rejuvenation of the program under Addazio. The upset against USC on campus was riveting, culminated by Murphy's 66-yard run to seal the victory.

"I know [the stadium] only holds 45,000 people, but it felt like 100,000 people that day," Murphy said.

The win prompted a stream of congratulatory texts from his old Florida teammates, some of whom privately hoped Murphy would be their quarterback.

"Sometimes I wonder, 'What if he was here?'" Showers admitted. "But I had to get that out of my mind."

Murphy always wanted to play against Florida State -- he just didn't figure it would be in a BC uniform. After torturing himself by watching the game film from Louisville over and over again, he's focused on the third-ranked team in the country. The Eagles visit the Seminoles on Saturday.

"People in Gainesville always hated Florida State," he said. "Seems like people up here hate them, too."

He is proud of his Florida degree and plans to pay his $23 alumni fee as soon as the season is over.

The journey has been long, arduous and full of surprises.

"It didn't turn out quite the way I thought," Tyler Murphy said, "but no regrets."

The original dream, after all, was to play quarterback for Boston College.

His coach just wishes the dream had come true sooner.