BYU soccer star overcoming obstacles one goal at a time

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Attacking Midfielder Michele Murphy takes on Cal State Fullerton player during a pre-season game just before tearing her ACL. (Photo courtesy of Michele Murphy.)
Attacking midfielder Michele Murphy takes on a Cal State Fullerton player during a pre-season game just before tearing her ACL. (Photo courtesy of Michele Murphy)

Michele Murphy bounces out of the physical therapy room like she just aced a final, singing quietly to the song blasting through her earbuds.

It wouldn’t be surprising if this BYU soccer star, suffering from a recent ACL tear, was frustrated about her playing restrictions and painful injury, but she says there’s no point being upset about things that can’t be changed.

Known for her upbeat and optimistic personality, Murphy, a sophomore striker studying exercise and wellness, said she learned at a young age that happiness comes in celebrating the little successes in life rather than focusing on the negative aspects.

She attributes this outlook to what she considers the biggest challenge she has ever had to overcome — the death of her older brother, Shawn.

“Shawn died when I was just seven,” Murphy said. “It’s something that hurts every day and really doesn’t get easier with time, but it keeps things in perspective for me. It reminds me that life can be short, and we should be trying to find things to be happy about.”

Growing up in Sandy, a curly-haired little girl with a dusting of freckles from head to toe, Murphy found joy in many activities, including basketball, gymnastics, tumbling, acting, singing and dancing.

“Her older siblings used to watch ‘Grease’ a lot,” her mother said. “And one day when Michele was 3, we had some guests over, and Michele stood up on the fireplace and started singing ‘Sandra Dee Lousy With Virginity.’ And we all just couldn’t help but laugh.”

Murphy, who, according to her mom, has never been one to shy away from an audience, started acting at a local theater and performing with a dancing and singing group as a young teen.

But when her schedule started becoming too full for all the activities, she ultimately chose soccer. As the youngest of four soccer-playing siblings, Murphy was used to taking on older opponents and quickly became competitive with kids who were more experienced than she.

“She was never intimidated by anyone,” said longtime friend and teammate Millie Green. “She won’t take anything from anyone, no matter what their size is.”

Murphy knew she wanted to continue her passion in college, and when she was 16 she committed to play at BYU, her dream school.

But unfortunately, after a long summer of grueling trainings, just days before her season was about to begin, a car accident put her in the hospital with a head concussion.

“The car accident kept me out for a couple weeks,” Murphy said. “It was hard because I had gotten super stoked about the start of the season, and I didn’t want to miss any games, but I knew it could have been a lot worse.”

Refusing to become discouraged, Murphy took the field again. On her second game back, she felt her right knee give out from under her and soon found out she had a serious ligament injury.

“It was kind of a shocker for me,” Murphy, who never had any previous soccer injuries, said. “I kind of felt invincible.”

Going from being an active athlete to being unable to walk was difficult for Murphy, but through physical therapy, she realized just how strong she was.

Murphy said if she would have focused on only the end result, the six-month road to recovery might have seemed unbearable. Instead, she took things one step at a time, focusing on small achievements along the way, and now she is ready to get back on the field.

“She has definitely stayed really positive,” Green said. “Even when she is sitting on the sideline at practices watching the rest of the team play; she is always encouraging everyone else.”

One day, Murphy plans to become a physical therapist, but her mom sees different things ahead for the young student athlete.

“I think she is going to be a mom before anything else,” Murphy’s mother said. “She is such a cute aunt, and whenever those kids come over, she gets right down on the floor and will play with them. She’s still full of energy just like them.”

Whether it’s motherhood or a career that lies ahead for her, Murphy isn’t too worried about planning it all out just yet.

“For now, I’m just going to keep jamming to the music and avoid taking life too seriously,” she said as she picked her iPod up off the table. “I just want to enjoy where I’m at right now.”

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