Chatting With the New Head of the Packers

In 1977, current Green Bay Packers President and Chief Executive Office Mark Murphy graduated from Colgate and headed to our nation’s capital to play safety for the Washington Redskins, but he was unsure of what lay ahead. While at Colgate, Murphy had been a star football player. However, Colgate was a small school and while football was a Division I program at the time, Murphy was still uncertain about how long or successful his NFL career would be.

While in Washington, Murphy enrolled in night classes at the Kogod School of Business at American University. The former economics major attempted to juggle an NFL career and his education. As it turned out, Murphy was able to put both his education and his athletic ability to good use. After an eight-year NFL career, which included a stint as the co-captain of Joe Gibbs’ Super Bowl XVIII-winning Washington Redskins, Murphy worked for the NFL Players Union, the United States Justice Department, Colgate University and Northwestern University. This year, Murphy was named President and CEO of the Green Bay Packers. Last Tuesday, I had a chance to speak with Mr. Murphy about his endeavors.

As a player, Murphy was a serious threat to NFL quarterbacks in his eight years in the league. He has been named one of the 70 greatest Redskin players of all time by the team’s website, and was also a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XVIII champion. He made an interception in that Super Bowl and grabbed nine more in 1983 to lead the NFL. But of all his accomplishments in the pros, Murphy said that winning the Super Bowl was “clearly the highlight.”

“That was the strike year,” he said. “So it was kind of a whirlwind. We were on strike for nine weeks and we came back and got on a roll. It was kind of like the Giants this year. We peaked at the right time and got on a roll.”

But NFL players take a beating and even the best athletes cannot play forever. Eventually, the night school classes that Murphy had been taking as a young athlete paid off.

“I think I was the only guy on my team that was taking classes at the time,” Murphy said. “It was kind of a nice break from football 24-hours a day.”

After his playing career was over, Mr. Murphy used his degree to get a job with the NFL Players Union. At the same time, Murphy began pursuing a law degree at Georgetown University, which he earned in 1988. The following year, he started a career with the Justice Department. But after four years there, Mr. Murphy had a decision to make.

“I was in my mid-30s, I had four young children and I didn’t think the lifestyle of being an attorney in D.C. would be great in terms of raising a family,” Murphy said.

So when the Athletic Director position opened up at Colgate, Murphy and his wife Laurie (who is also a Colgate graduate) moved to the Hamilton area so that he could take the job. Murphy was the Colgate Athletic Director until 2003, when he left to take the same position at Northwestern. In his time as Colgate athletic director, he accomplished many things and was an active member of the Hamilton community. In 1993, Murphy started the Hamilton Youth Basketball league, which still exists today.

After being involved in athletic administration for more than 15 years, Murphy was offered a job as the President of the Green Bay Packers organization in 2007. He is now in the first year of his new job as President of the Green Bay Packers, and is humbled by the opportunity that he has.

“The Packers job represented a unique and special opportunity to get back into the NFL,” Murphy said. “And the Packers have such a great reputation. I am really honored to hold his position.”

Murphy spoke briefly about his involvement with the team, saying that there are about 150 employees of the team excluding players. Although Murphy believes he could never own an NFL team, the Packers afford him the opportunity to represent the ownership of the team at board meetings.

“To be involved in the NFL at a high level, to be able to shape policy and to be able to make positive changes for the game is pretty exciting,” Murphy said.

This offseason the Packers will look to put an NFC Championship overtime loss against the Giants behind them and prepare for the 2008 season. At the end of the interview, I asked Mark Murphy the only question that still remains in the minds of most Packers fans.

“Mr. Murphy,” I said, “can you tell us one last thing? The only thing still left on Packer fans’ minds is what Brett Favre is thinking about doing right now.”

Murphy laughed, and responded, “Most people think he is going to come back. We are very close (to getting him back) and he is still playing at a very high level. I would be surprised if he doesn’t come back.”

Sports have always been a part of Murphy’s life. From his start at Colgate, Murphy was a star at Andy Kerr Stadium and then he moved on to dominate the backfield at RFK. But next season will be slightly different. Once again, Murphy will be with an NFL team, but this time around, instead of watching the offense from the sidelines, he will watch from the President’s Box.