Bulldogs’ Murphy adds Harris Award to list of accomplishments

Published 12:31 pm Saturday, December 31, 2022

BIG RAPIDS —  Ferris State University football senior defensive end Caleb Murphy, who led FSU to a second-straight NCAA Division II National Championship this past fall, has earned yet another major national honor by being chosen today as the 2022 recipient of the Cliff Harris Award, which is presented to the nation’s top small college defensive player and recognized as one of the top honors in all of college football.

With the latest honor, Murphy has now claimed every major defensive player award possible this year, including the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award, the Ted Hendricks Award presented to the nation’s top defensive end and the Division II National Defensive Player of the Year honor in addition to the Cliff Harris Award. He becomes the first FSU player to ever receive the Cliff Harris Award.

The Little Rock Touchdown Club and Wright Lindsey Jennings announced Murphy on Saturday as the recipient of the 9th annual Cliff Harris Award. The award is presented to the nation’s top small college defensive player representing more than 5,000 defensive players from almost 500 NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.

As this year’s recipient, Murphy, of Dowagiac, is slated to be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet on Jan.13, with featured speaker Joe Theismann. He will receive the $3,000 Cliff Harris Award trophy presented by Cliff Harris.

For the story of Cliff Harris, go to CliffHarrisAward.com and read about his amazing journey from an overlooked high school player from tiny Des Arc, Arkansas, and one scholarship offer to then NAIA Ouachita Baptist University, to five Super Bowls, six Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame this past summer.

Previously, Murphy was tabbed this year as the 2022 Ted Hendricks Award recipient as the nation’s top defensive end regardless of level and also recognized as the 2022 Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award winner.

Murphy demolished the NCAA all-divisions record for single-season sacks, recording 25.5, and led all divisions with 39 tackles for loss, which matched the all-time single-season record for any NCAA level. Nearly half of Murphy’s tackles this season were for negative yards. He and his Ferris State teammates dominated opponents on their way to their second consecutive Division II championship. The Bulldog defense shut down the Colorado School of Mines, the division’s top scoring offense, in the Division II championship game.

Murphy played the past two seasons on the field for the Bulldogs and recorded 40 sacks, 60.5 tackles for loss (353 yards), 156 total tackles and eight forced fumbles. His teams went 9-0 in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Murphy’s accolades this season include the Gene Upshaw Award (D-II Lineman of the Year), First-Team AFCA D-II All-America, the sole defensive player named a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award (D-II Player of the Year) and GLIAC Player of the Year. He will also represent Ferris State at the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas on Feb. 2.