Former Chippewa Valley star Sean Murphy-Bunting makes a play during his high school career. He recently played a key role in helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl.

Former Chippewa Valley star Sean Murphy-Bunting makes a play during his high school career. He recently played a key role in helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl.

Photo provided by Scott Merchant


From Chippewa to champion: Former Big Red wins Super Bowl ring

By: Jacob Herbert, Zachary Manning | Metro | Published February 23, 2021

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Tom Brady was 24 years old when he won his first Super Bowl. But Sean Murphy-Bunting has him beat when it comes to who won a Super Bowl championship  at a younger age.

Murphy-Bunting, a 2015 Clinton Township Chippewa Valley graduate and a Macomb Township native, recently won his first Super Bowl at the age of 23. Murphy-Bunting is a teammate of Brady’s on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who on Feb. 7 defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.

In the big game, Murphy-Bunting had six tackles and one pass deflection. This past season was his second in the NFL.

With about six minutes remaining in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, Murphy-Bunting tipped a pass at the goal line, preventing the Chiefs from going up by a touchdown. Kansas City ended the series with a field goal, taking the early 3-0 lead.

Murphy-Bunting came away with three interceptions in the Buccaneers’ three previous playoff games. In the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers, he picked off Aaron Rodgers. In the divisional round versus the New Orleans Saints, he returned a Drew Brees pass for 36 yards. And in his first career postseason contest, Murphy-Bunting had an interception in the team’s 8-point win over the Washington Football Team.

During the 2020 regular season, in which he started 13 games, Murphy-Bunting registered 67 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception. According to Pro Football Focus, Murphy-Bunting’s 17 solo tackles in the postseason were tied for first among all other playoff cornerbacks, his three postseason interceptions were the most of any playoff cornerback and he was targeted 28 times, also tied for first.

 

Hard work pays off
Murphy-Bunting played three sports at Chippewa Valley: football, basketball and baseball. His peers say he was a great athlete, but early on hadn’t quite grown into his body.

By the time his sophomore and junior years came around, the future NFL star had grown a bit and was ready to show off his skills.

“He played primarily as a receiver for us. He had great hands, maybe the best hands I’ve ever seen, ran great routes, could jump out of the gym, just tremendous athleticism and ball skills,” Chippewa Valley football coach Scott Merchant said. “He was a little undersized his first two years and then he came back for his junior year and he had grown 3 or 4 inches and was a completely different-sized athlete at that point.”

Murphy-Bunting continued to grow into his senior season while playing both corner and receiver for the Big Reds. Merchant said he bulked up and really took his game to another level.

Chippewa Valley public address announcer Greg Martinez recalls watching Murphy-Bunting play for the Big Reds. His son also played on the team, and recalled how Murphy-Bunting became the Big Reds’ star playmaker, noting that the coaching staff said if they “need to make a play, get him the ball.”

“It’s pretty obvious when there’s a player like that who comes along,” Martinez said. “When they make those plays it sticks out head and shoulders above everything else that you see.”

 

From Big Reds to big time
By the time Murphy-Bunting began to bloom in high school, many Division 1 colleges had made offers to other athletes and there wasn’t much left for the Big Reds star. Instead, he bet on himself and took a gray shirt offer at Central Michigan University, meaning he would have to wait an extra semester to become a full-time student and part of the team. Murphy-Bunting used that extra time to study his playbook and work out to make sure he was ready when his time came.

When he was finally able to hit the field, Murphy-Bunting played all 13 games in his first year, making one start. He would go on to start the next two seasons and finished his college career with nine interceptions and 24 pass deflections.

After earning first team All-MAC honors his junior year, the young star again bet on himself and declared for the NFL draft. The 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback was selected by the Bucs in the second round of the 2019 draft, 39th overall.

He entered training camp in his rookie season and hit the ground running, playing in 16 games. Just as he did in high school and college, Murphy-Bunting continued to improve in 2020, playing a vital role in eventually winning the Super Bowl.

“He wasn’t given anything. He didn’t have 40 Division 1 offers; he had to go in late as a gray shirt, which I think ended up working out for him,” Merchant said. “Everybody just assumes, ‘It was just easy. He was a stud, he played varsity all four years, he had all these offers.’ You just see the end product, but to see how hard he worked and how resilient he was and didn’t let anything stop him from achieving his goals, he’s the most determined student-athlete I’ve ever been around in my career, hands down.”

To this day Merchant uses Murphy-Bunting as an example to prove to his current players that big things are possible for anyone.

“He’s a very personable young man, which you can see in his interviews,” said Chippewa Valley linebackers and special teams coordinator Don Preiss. “He was always the guy with the big smile you saw in the hallway and people wanted to be around. He’s always had a sense of gratitude and thanks.”

At a recent Chippewa Valley School’s Board of Education meeting, district Superintendent Ron Roberts said Murphy-Bunting is the first graduate of Chippewa Valley to receive a Super Bowl ring.

Attempts to reach Murphy-Bunting for comment for this story through his agent and Tampa Bay Buccaneers public relations officials were unsuccessful.

Staff Writer Alex Szwarc contributed to this story.

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