Justin Murphy

Belton lineman Justin Murphy, who was around six feet tall and 200 pounds when he entered high school, has shot up to 6-8 and weighs 276.

Generally, if you’re one of the youngest kids in your grade coming up through school, you tend to be of the smallest, too.

That was never the case for Justin Murphy, though. Murphy always towered over his classmates by at least a couple of inches. Throw in a rather significant growth spurt within his last two years of high school, and now you’ve got a mountain of a (young) man who also just happens to play the offensive line with its necessary nasty streak.

The Belton offensive tackle stands about 6-foot-8 and weighs in at 276 pounds, and may still grow into his body even more, since he doesn’t turn 18 until August. That combination of prowess and power has made Murphy the Trib’s top-ranked football prospect in Central Texas, bound for Texas Tech come Wednesday — National Signing Day.

“I think the big thing with him is that he’s got the perfect lineman’s build,” said Rodney Southern, who coached Murphy the last four years at Belton before accepting the Huntsville job this past week. “He can carry his weight. He’s not fat at all. He went from 255 (as a junior) to 280 to 285 and stayed lean doing it. That’s going to be on the next level, and is going to help him compete. His maturity has helped him tremendously.”

Size can sometimes be worthless if you’re afraid to use it to your advantage. That hasn’t been an issue for Murphy. He thrives on the physicality of football, of working himself into a angry lather and then taking out that bad mood on the nearest defender.

“I definitely don’t mind getting aggressive, especially on running plays,” Murphy said. “I’ve always had little altercations in practice, and this year I’ve take that to the field for games, too.”

Murphy committed to Texas Tech last June, and hasn’t wavered from that pledge in the months since. He just made his official visit to Lubbock last weekend, and what he observed only solidified his decision.

“I really like what they do,” Murphy said. “They have an offense that really fits who I am as an offensive lineman. Because of my body type, I’m a more pass-oriented lineman. Though I can do both (run-blocking and pass-blocking), that fits me really well.”

It also helps that Murphy knows that he has at least one friend on campus already. His older brother James, who doesn’t play football, is in the midst of his freshman year at Tech this spring.

Murphy said his family bonds run deep, which is another reason he’s headed to Lubbock. It’s appealing to know that his parents and other relatives won’t have to travel far to take in games, especially those road games in Waco, Austin or Fort Worth.

The burly tackle comes by his rugged athleticism naturally. His 6-foot-4 father Jim was a tackle at Rice, while his mother Regina shot-putted for the Owls.

Given his fiery, competitive zeal, Murphy plans to do everything possible to get on the field for the Red Raiders as a true freshman in the fall. However, he’s open to redshirting and is even intrigued by the notion of spending his first year in college gaining even more strength.

“It’s definitely a great thing do, to play as a true freshman,” Murphy said. “The coaches have expressed that it’s definitely an option, that it might happen. But since I’ll still be 17 until August, redshirting could be a really nice option, too. We’ll just wait and see what the depth shows.”

Whether he takes the field in 2014 or waits another year, Murphy intends to keep playing with the same fiery attitude that landed him a scholarship in the first place. That’s all he knows.

On the field, the big kid gets to be a big bully — and it’s kind of fun.

“Yeah, he plays like that with every snap,” Southern said. “And I’ve told the coaches at Texas Tech that they’re going to love him, because he practices with that, too. He’s got an offensive lineman mentality. We didn’t coach that, because you can’t coach that. You’re born with that.”

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