Running back to the field as QB

Success despite injury, position change


Quarterback Murphy Mulvihill throws for over 200 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-16 win against Taft on Aug. 27. After sustaining a head injury his freshman season, Mulvihill switched from middle linebacker and running back to free safety and quarterback. Photo by Alicia Amsel

Leading Wheeling 34-0 on Sept. 10 with just four seconds left in the half on his own 4-yard line, quarterback Murphy Mulvihill dropped back into the end zone. At the same time, wide receiver Ryan Henschel blew past Wheeling’s secondary, and Mulvihill delivered a perfect ball into Henschel’s hands for a 96-yard touchdown, the longest passing play in school history.

Mulvihill did not imagine himself starting at quarterback this season. In fact, he thought his football career was over three years ago after sustaining a head injury during his freshman season.

In the third quarter of the freshman team’s homecoming game in 2018, he took a big hit while playing running back, Mulvihill said.

“I don’t really remember the play or anything like that,” said Mulvihill. “I remember getting hit. Basically, I was knocked out.”

An ambulance took him to Glenbrook Hospital, before being transferred to Lutheran General Hospital, where he was informed he had a complicated brain bleed.

Concerned about his safety, Mulvihill decided not to play football as a sophomore and did not plan on playing as a junior either. 

“Then [my junior year] winter, I went and saw neurologists down in the city, and they told me I could play certain positions if I wanted to,” Mulvihill said.

Mulvihill, a middle linebacker and running back his freshman year, was a free safety and backup quarterback for his junior season. In the final game of the varsity season, Mulvihill played his first snaps as quarterback after the starting quarterback left the game injured.

In the summer before his senior season, Mulvihill was named starting quarterback and one of the four captains of the football team.

According to Henschel, one of Mulvihill’s top targets, he shares a particularly strong connection with the quarterback.

“He’s like Mr. Reliable,” said Henschel. “When he does something wrong, he knows what he has to improve on and is always real with us.”

According to quarterback coach Dominic Savino, Mulvihill’s understanding of his teammates and his high football IQ has added a whole new dimension to the offense.

“For not having played the position for years, I think he’s done a phenomenal job.

“He made some very difficult throws look very easy, and that’s not easy to do with a live rush under the lights on a Friday night,” Savino said.

As of Sept. 23, the team is 2-2, with Mulvihill putting up 517 passing yards, 214 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns.

According to Mulvihill, his success has been a team effort.

“I think the rest of the guys on the team understand that this is my first year playing quarterback in my life, and they kind of pick up responsibility for me,” Mulvihill said.