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Glenbard North's Brian Murphy (left) looks to get past Stevenson's Nick Constantini. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Glenbard North quarterback Brian Murphy is no longer just the guy who hands off to star running back Justin Jackson.
Oh, he still does that, 392 times so far this season, but Murphy has developed into a dangerous weapon of his own. The 5-10, 170-pound senior, who is headed to Michigan on a full wrestling scholarship, could be the difference-maker Saturday when the Panthers (12-1) try to win their first state championship when they face Mount Carmel (12-1) in the Class 8A title game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
“He is another guy you have to prepare for,” Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens said. “He has to be accounted for. If they key only on Justin, then Brian will beat you.”
Murphy has rushed for 511 yards and five touchdowns and completed 75-of-137 passes for 1,307 yards and 10 scores. His improved passing gives Glenbard North an added dimension which came in handy in a 27-24 semifinal win over Loyola, when Murphy completed 5-of-10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown to back up Jackson’s four-score effort.
“He made some nice passes for huge first downs for us [against Loyola] and he can pull it down and run with it,” Wilkens said. “He has improved in every area – his accuracy, his composure, his reads. His decision-making has improved dramatically.”
Murphy credits his success to the fact that, unlike many quarterbacks, he doesn’t shoulder the entire offensive burden alone.
“It helps having Justin in the backfield,” Murphy said. “Coach Wilkens has done a nice job of working with me. In practice we do a lot of two-minute drills and that really forces me to be comfortable under pressure.
“It’s nice being in a position where I don’t have to worry about my stats. I really only have one job and that’s to help this team win.”
Murphy helps in more ways than one. He never comes off the field, doubling as a starting safety. It’s a lot to handle, but one he is used to thanks to his experience in wrestling, his best sport. Murphy is a three-time state medalist, having taken third at 130 pounds as a freshman and second the past two years at 140 and 152.
“[Wrestling] prepares me,” Murphy said. “It does get tiring but it’s like when you’re wrestling in the third period of a match, everybody is tired and you’ve just got to push through.”