A group of kids wanted this football player’s autograph. He was just as excited to get theirs.

N.C Central wide receiver Jacen Murphy, back middle, poses with some young football fans on campus last week.
N.C Central wide receiver Jacen Murphy, back middle, poses with some young football fans on campus last week.

Getting the autographs of a group of kids was N.C. Central wide receiver Jacen Murphy’s “favorite part of camp.”

Murphy, a sophomore from Wilmington, ran into the kids at a campus cafeteria this summer, and wanted to engage with them. He had seem the group, on campus for a camp, at football practice earlier in the day. Murphy approached two or three of the campers and asked them their names.

Before he knew it, he was surrounded by 30 kids who wanted to pick his brain about being a student-athlete. The kids remembered Murphy from practice (must have been his trademark dreadlocks) and complimented him on some big plays he made.

Then Murphy put the focus on them.

N.C. Central wide receiver Jacen Murphy got this list of autographs from a group of kids on campus for a camp this summer. Contributed photo

“When I asked them their names they were super excited,” Murphy said. “I remember a couple of names. They were really cool and nice, it was definitely fun meeting them.”

Murphy remembers Cam, who was wearing a Cam Newton jersey, and Big O. Most of the boys wanted to talk about playing football; one of the girls told him that she wrestles. Seeing this as an opportunity to educate, Murphy told the kids what it takes to play sports at the college level. He stressed the importance of good grades and time management, and that when you arrive on campus, school, not sports, comes first.

“I was more excited than they were,” Murphy said. “It was fun meeting them.”

A few kids asked Murphy for his autograph, but Murphy caught them by surprise and asked for theirs, too.

He grabbed anything he could find for them to write on and got the autographs of each of the campers he spoke to. Murphy then posed for a picture with the campers.

Murphy wants the autographs to hang in his locker this season as a brief reminder that college athletes can be heroes to kids.

“It was definitely my favorite part of camp,” Murphy said. “Just remembering why I’m out here, just knowing there are people everywhere who look up to, not only me, but each one of these guys.”

But Murphy has had a hard time keeping the autographed paper intact. He took it out the locker room because it gets damp in there, and he didn’t want it to get ruined. But when he took it home, he left it in his wallet, which was in his pants when he did laundry. His next step is to get it laminated, whatever it takes to salvage the paper that’s so important to him.

“It reminds me of why I do what I do,” Murphy said.

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV

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