He’s the ‘Pacekeeper’

ACHS ball boy is a key part of fast-paced Maverick offense

  • No matter where the play ends, Anderson County High School football team’s ball boy, Ty Murphy, is on top of the spot. The seventh grader runs the sidelines carrying three footballs every Friday night. - Ken Leinart

  • Ty Murphy has a word with his father, Ricky Murphy, during an extra point attempt at Chattanooga Howard Friday night. One of the “perks” with being the Anderson County High School ball boy is that he can chat with dad, who videos the games, and brother, Matthew, who is a senior lineman. Those opportunities are rare, however. - Ken Leinart

  • Ty Murphy - Ken Leinart

The first thing you notice about Ty Murphy is that you don’t notice him at all.

And that’s a good thing.

He the ‘Pacekeeper.”

It’s a Friday night in East Tennessee and that means high school football. There are bands playing, burgers and hot dogs are being grilled for the concession stands, cheerleaders are leading cheers, and fans are laughing — or grimacing (depending on how their team is doing).

Football is being played, and referees are making sure the proceedings on the field run at a smooth and fast pace.

And with today’s game featuring “the spread,” five wide receiver sets, and fast break no-huddle offenses, making sure the pace of the game runs at the break-neck speed those offenses require, there’s one guy who can gum up the works.

The ball boy.

If there is an incompletion, a change of possession, anything at all on the field that leaves the football away from where it is to be placed in play a referee will turn to the sideline, to the ball boy, for another ball.

And if the ball boy isn’t there so the ball can be spotted right away, slowness ensues.

It’s not that easy.

Not when you’re carrying three footballs, handing a ball to the ref, then racing to where the ball you’re replacing, so you can retrieve it, and then hustling back.

“I get my exercise,” Ty Murphy said. “I ran two miles during the Hixson game.”

Murphy is on his second year as the Anderson County High School football team ball boy. He got the gig when Anderson County High School Athletic Director Gary Terry asked him if he wanted the job.

“My dad (Rick Murphy) does video for the team so he knows Coach Terry. Last year he asked me if I wanted to be a ball boy,” Murphy said.

“It’s a lot of fun, but you have to really pay attention.”

Which means young Ty doesn’t get to just stand and watch the Mavericks’ offense — or his older brother, senior Matthew Murphy — work.

He has to follow the flow of the game, follow where the ball is going to be.

But Ty Murphy is kinda like a football junkie. The Norris Middle School seventh grader is a lineman (offense and defense) for Coach Richie Noe’s Senators. He has a brother playing — and every once in awhile he can sneak a quick word with him — so he’s a fan of the Mavericks.

And it’s telling that during halftime, instead of sitting and catching his breath or grabbing a seat and eating a snack, he’s on the field near the end zone … Tossing a football.

Before the game, during introductions, Murphy talks with the referees and tells them he’ll be right behind the side judge. All they have to do is turn and he’ll have a ball ready. And that after every extra point attempt by Anderson County the football used for kickoffs is beside the goal post.

The refs don’t have to wait for him to come back after chasing down the extra point kick.

And he’s true to his word.

He carries two game balls, plus a third ball used for kick offs — three footballs all together — at all times.

All this while running up and down the sideline keeping an eye on the side judge and the spot for the next play.

And when it rains? He has to keep the balls as dry as possible.

Probably the best compliment you can give Ty Murphy is that on Friday night, you didn’t notice him at all.