Verrado football finds deeper meaning to teamwork in 'The Murph' Memorial Day workout – The Arizona Republic


Buckeye Verrado defensive coordinator Mike Willey gave a little history lesson on Lt. Michael P. Murphy on Memorial Day inside the weight room.
Players gathered around him and listened to why they were about to go through the most intense workout of their lives.
There will be a mile run around campus. A hundred pull-ups. A couple hundred pushups. A few hundred squats. Another mile run.
“It is a tough workout,” Verrado head coach Dustin Johnson said. “But this workout paled in comparison to what the soldiers and families have had to go through to protect our country.”
Murphy was a Navy SEAL  who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005, along with three of his SEAL teammates, as he maneuvered to make communication to call for help as he was being fired at to relay the position of his unit.
It was a heroic act of courage that is now honored by The Murph.
“It’s going to be hard, but you’ve got to dig down deep,” Willey said. “Think about what these guys did.”
This hits deep in the core of middle linebacker Nathan Bilski’s soul. His grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart for fighting in Vietnam.
“This means the world,” Bilski said. “This definitely hits close to home.”
Willey, whose son Ryan Willey is one of the state’s top defensive ends as an upcoming junior, comes from a family deep in the military.
His father fought in World War II. 
“He signed up when he was 16 and fought in World War II,” said Mike Willey, whose older son is a staff sergeant in the Army stationed in Georgia. “Today’s the anniversary of his death. It’s huge for me as a dad.
“It’s awesome to see the kids come out and want to give back for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
Even Coach Willey jumped in and did pushups.
“He was excited about it all week,” his son, Ryan Willey, said. “It’s just a big deal to do it every year. It is special to create a legacy (in Murphy). A workout and a man. He was a great man.
Magic, madness, memories: Reflecting on Arizona high school sports year
Ryan Willey was part of the second group about to approach the grueling workout. Nobody was expected to do 100 straight pull-ups or 200 consecutive pushups. They were able to break it out in increments.
But cornerback Colin Tibbs, among nine starting defenders back this season, felt a few walls closing in that he had to push through among the 7 a.m., group that hit the challenge on Monday.
“It’s very intense,” Tibbs said. “I even threw up in the last mile. We did it all for the fallen soldiers.
“I enjoyed this because my grandpa was in the military. He used to do this workout all the time, so it’s pretty close to my heart.”
Read more: Spring HS football showcases bring out college coaches
Verrado assistant coach Shawn Kemmer was in special ops as an Army Ranger in Iraq.
“I think 40 to 50% of most humans don’t understand what their capability is,” Kemmer said. “When you elect to do something like special ops, it will put you through a mentality, a work ethic, that most people don’t understand or even comprehend.
“But people willing to do this keeps us alive, keeps us safe every day. There are people who elect to protect your family. This is serious because I think these young people are getting an understanding of that respect for human beings who are going to do it as opposed to those who elect not to defend.”
Verrado wants to push through walls not only on the football field but in life. 
A few of the coaches have military backgrounds. They understand the work involved,  and what it means to push through for your fellow teammate.
Memorial Day was the perfect day to connect through probably the most intense workout they’ll have together.
“You understand teamwork, you understand coaching,” said Kemmer, who served as an Army Ranger from 1998 to 2004. “You understand that if you don’t have my back, then there is nobody that does. It creates a closeness.
“Most of these guys, when they leave, whether it’s special ops or high school football, they become the best man in someone’s way. It’s really neat to see them form these bonds, because they’ll forget about scoreboards and outcomes. But they’ll always have these relationships that will last throughout eternity.”
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.
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