Dowagiac Union High School alum makes Titans' 53-man roster

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CASS COUNTY, Mich. - Caleb Murphy has defeated the odds once again. The Dowagiac Union High School product has survived roster cutdowns and is officially a member of the Tennessee Titans' 53-man roster. 

Murphy needed to make a strong impression this preseason, and that's exactly what he did. The defensive end has been a force off the edge whenever he has been on the field, finishing with at least one sack and an additional hit on the quarterback in each of the Titans' three exhibition games. 

His preseason performance may have surprised many, but it was nothing new for Murphy, who has shown a knack for getting after the quarterback every step of the way. He was named first-team All-State in both his junior and senior year of high school after putting up a combined 28 sacks during those two seasons.

Murphy began his collegiate career at Division II Grand Valley State before transferring to another D II school, Ferris State, in 2021. He quickly established himself as one of the top players in the conference, earning the Defensive Lineman of the Year award after putting up 14.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in his first season with the team. More importantly, he helped the team win their first Division II National Championship in program history. 

While his first year was impressive, Murphy proved it was just a glimpse of what was yet to come. He turned up the juice last season, setting an NCAA record with 25.5 sacks and tying the previous record of 39 tackles for loss. The 23-year-old became the first non-FBS player to win the Ted Hendricks Award, which recognizes the nation's best defensive end. He also won both the Gene Upshaw Award and Cliff Harris Award, which recognize Division II defensive linemen, and was named the GLIAC Player of the Year. Once again, he was the heartbeat of a defense that helped the program win its second National Championship in as many years.

Despite his success at both the high school and collegiate levels, Murphy still went undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, he promptly signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent following the draft, allowing him to get his foot in the door to continue his football career.

Expectations were low for Murphy heading into the preseason, but he constantly managed to be a thorn in the side of opposing offenses. He seemed to improve in each game and instilled hope that the Titans may have found a diamond in the rough. While he may have been going up against backups, the performance still showed he has what it takes to make an impact in the pros.

On Murphy's high school recruiting profile, he said that one of his biggest strengths was his willingness to do whatever it took to help his team succeed, and it appears that mindset has stuck with him. On top of rushing the passer, Murphy has also embraced his role on special teams. His performance there has not gone unnoticed, as Titans' head coach Mike Vrabel praised the rookie edge rusher's work ethic following last week's preseason game against Minnesota. 

"He continues to find a role on special teams," said Vrabel. "I love his attitude; he shows up every day ready to work."

Murphy is currently third on the depth chart, but his role could expand as the season progresses if he continues to make the most of his opportunities. The two players ahead of him in the pecking order are relatively unproven commodities in Arden Key, who has only 13 career starts in four years, and Rashad Weaver, a situational pass-rusher who only started four games for Tennessee last year.

A handful of players always go on to achieve success after falling through the cracks of the NFL Draft, and Murphy appears to be a leading candidate from this year's class to do just that.

Even if the edge-rusher doesn't make an impact beyond special teams this season, the former All-Michigan standout athlete has already exceeded expectations. It's safe to say one close-knit Michiana community will keep an eye on the hometown hero as his career progresses.

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