COLUMN: Murphy impressive in NFL debut

Published 6:45 am Friday, August 18, 2023

I do not think I have ever been more excited to watch a preseason football game than I was last Saturday. 

Then, again, I never was getting ready to watch a player that I had personally covered during his high school career playing in a National Football League preseason game on television.

Murphy is not the first Chieftains I had watched playing in an NFL preseason game. Mark Staten, who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals out of the University of Miami (Ohio) in 1993, was playing in the old Pontiac Silverdome.

It was quite a night as I got to watch a Dowagiac player competing at the professional level. It was also memorable because I had Barry Sanders run into where I was standing twice. I even made ESPN’s Sportcenter, or so I am told, because I never actually got to see the highlights of the game.

So here I am, once again getting ready to watch a former Dowagiac Chieftain make his professional debut at Soldier’s Field in Chicago against the Bears.

Caleb Murphy, who had already done so much in his young career that, includes back-to-back Division 2 National Championships at Ferris State University and being named the top defensive player in the entire country, not just his division last December.

Murphy has once again put Dowagiac on the sports map as he signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent. He has gone through rookie camp and organized team activities, better known as OTAs. Now, he is in the Titans’ training camp trying to earn a spot on the Tennessee roster for the 2023 season.

Murphy did not disappoint. I had to wait a little over a quarter before he took the field, but it was well worth it. All he did in his first professional game was record three tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a quarterback sack. Not bad for your debut.

The sack was probably extremely gratifying for Murphy because it came against Tyson Bagent, who he sacked twice for Ferris State University in the Division 2 national semifinals when the Bulldogs routed Shepherd University on its way to a second national title.

Murphy and the Titans are in Minnesota this week as they are holding combined workouts with the Vikings before the second preseason game for both teams. I cannot wait to see what he does in Minnesota this weekend.

Dowagiac has always been proud of its rich football tradition. But I have to believe that Chieftain fans are puffing their chests out a little more these days as they can say, “I watched Caleb play his high school games at Chris Taylor Alumni Field.”

Dowagiac got an extra boost this week when the school board announced that it would not be changing the nickname of the Chieftains after some concerned citizens brought it up. Dowagiac is proud of its association with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the use of the name Chieftains. 

I cannot think of a more fitting time to put that issue to rest, at least for now, with the high school football season kickoff off this Thursday and one of its own trying to make his mark in the NFL.

I wish Caleb the best of luck in the next two weeks as the preseason wraps up. I hope the Titans were as impressed with him as I was on Saturday, and he earns a spot on the roster.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at