Tyleik Williams was bored. So to inject some excitement into practice last year, he looked over at Shawn Murphy and got an idea as the freshman linebacker stood there waiting for the start of a blocking drill.
Usually Williams is on defense as well, but this day he became an offensive lineman with one purpose in mind.
“I had to let him know who the big dog is,” Williams said of Murphy.
Let the fun begin. With a 125-pound weight advantage, Williams drove Murphy into the ground. On this point, there is no dispute. What Murphy looked like afterward, however, is a matter of contention between the two.
The Washington Redskins will recognize 15 members of Stonewall Jackson High School’s football team and head coach Carroll Walker tonight when …
Williams remembers the moment this way.
“He was in the dirt with his legs up,” Williams said.
Murphy said he was bruised by Williams’ crushing block, but concedes nothing more.
“He’s lying,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t that bad.”
The two also disagree about whether the infamous pancake block occurred during two-a-days or a single practice.
They eventually decide to drop it as Murphy continues to shrug off Williams’ boast. It’s time to move on. But before Murphy leaves the subject, he expresses one final thought for the sake of closure.
“I was not mad at him,” Murphy said. “But I can’t let it happen again.”
The exchange is one of the rare times when the two are not on the same page. Because when they are, opposing offenses pay the price. One is a handful to stop, let alone two.
“[Murphy] has great vision of the field which allows him to stay clean off of blocks, while [Williams] is able to absorb and shed blocks quick,” said Patriot senior offensive lineman and Division I recruit Tyler Negron. “This allows them to kinda work on opposite sides of the field forcing a team to choose who they take on while the other one chases down from the back.”
Williams and Murphy knew each other through the Manassas Mutiny, but never played together until arriving at Stonewall Jackson.
Of the two, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Williams is more experienced. He’s started since his freshman year on the defensive line, when he earned second-team all-Cedar Run District honors. In 2018, he was the district defensive player of the year after totaling 65 tackles, 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.
He’s added 25 pounds in the offseason, a fact he attributes to weightlifting and that he “likes to eat a lot.” But Williams’ speed remains.
“As big as he is, he’s got really quick feet,” Stonewall head coach Carroll Walker said.
Like Williams, Walker knew Murphy had potential to compete right away on varsity. Murphy played linebacker in the youth leagues, but also had experience at strong safety. At Bull Run Middle, Murphy even played offensive and defensive line.
Walker saw Murphy as an ideal linebacker for the Raiders. The only question was how much to use him from the start.
“Was he ready for what we were going to ask him to do?” Walker said. “We kept a close eye. But his talent showed and we put him in the fire and we lived and died with his mistakes.”
Weighing 185 pounds on his 6-foot frame, the tall but lanky Murphy said teams initially underestimated his abilities. But they soon learned otherwise, which brought up another friendly point of contention between he and Williams.
Williams said Murphy’s breakout game was Oct. 12 against Osbourn when he recorded 12 tackles and one sack. Murphy said his breakout game was six weeks earlier against Freedom, where he faced running back Tyquan Brown, Prince William County’s all-time leading rusher, and finished with 7.5 tackles.
Either way, Murphy made his presence known. Outside of Patriot all-state lineman Jakai Moore, no one, Murphy said, was able to contain him last season.
And colleges started noticing.
On Oct. 13, the University of Virginia was the first school to offer Murphy.
Virginia co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga stopped by the day before that night’s home game against Osbourn. Virginia had seen Murphy on film, but wanted to see him in person. Poppinga followed up the next day with Walker to say the Cavaliers were extending an offer.
Walker contacted Murphy to let him know that Poppinga wanted to share the news through a conference call with Murphy and his family. At the time, Murphy was at Manassas Mall with some friends and his mother. Murphy raced home to include his father on the call so everyone could share in the moment.
By the spring, interest picked up with at least 14 schools offering him between April 17 and May 28. Among them were Alabama, Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma.
“It’s not too overwhelming,” said Murphy, who has 20 offers. “Trying not to get a big head.”
Williams took the same approach after his first offer came in January from Virginia Tech.
“I was excited, I won’t lie,” said Williams, who has 15 offers. “But then I had to calm down. I still have a lot of work to do.”
Since 2004, Stonewall has produced a number of major Division I players, including three future NFL draft picks, who were also teammates. Ryan Williams and Chris Garrett played together followed by Williams and Damien Thigpen and then Tim Settle, Greg Stroman, Reggie Floyd and Devante Smith.
But collectively none of them received the amount of offers this early and at the same time as Murphy and Williams.
“They are humble and respectful kids,” Walker said of Murphy and Williams. “It’s a blessing to have those kids. It doesn’t go to their head and it really doesn’t interfere with their lives.”
The two like to keep each other updated on their offers. In some cases, they’ve heard from the same schools on the same days. The dueling offers also generates friendly competition between the two.
In the big brother role, Williams is more outspoken than Murphy and likes to needle Murphy any chance he gets. If he’s not bringing up the infamous pancake block, Williams will let people know who Murphy is in other ways.
“He’ll say, ‘He’s the freshman with 20 offers,’” Murphy said. “I just try to mind my own business.”
If it was only that easy. As the two receive more attention, they are realizing the challenge of keeping a low profile.
“It’s getting hard around here,” Murphy said.