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The South Dakota School of Mines football coaching staff often uses #BlueCollarGoldStandard at the end of many of its social media posts.

For junior tight end and former Rapid City Central Cobbler Ira Murphey, that's a hashtag that could describe his time with the Hardrockers.

Entering his third season at Mines, Murphey said this spring is all about working hard to get that spot on the field.

"That's kind of where you earn it, in the spring; where you fight for it," Murphey said recently after practice. "You don't have anything to show for it over the weekend, but just show it against your teammates, fighting against each other and not an opponent."

Mines coach Zach Tinker said that Murphey has been blue collar from the second he got to the program.

"Ira doesn't say much, but he is one of the really respected guys in the program," Tinker said. "Everyone can work really hard in short spurts, but he is someone who actually puts in the time on a regular basis, is very good in the classroom and wants a degree from here. Even when he is not 100 percent healthy, you don't know it because he plays so hard and is so physical."

Murphey's time at Mines has been a steady progression, as he caught seven passes for 36 yards in six games as a true freshman, before hauling in 13 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown in nine games last season as he missed two games with a separated shoulder.

It's hard work, he said again, that is putting him in position to contribute more to his hometown team

And learning from his coaches.

"As long as you do what you know is right — do everything right — and gradually move up, that is what I have been trying to do throughout my years here," he said.

Still, it was somewhat of a pleasant surprise to get out on the field his true freshman season. Originally, he didn't think he would be traveling with the team right away.

"When I did, then I was like, 'Oh, I guess it is go time," he said. "After that, it has just been keeping my head down and keep working every day."

At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Murphey said he has not only put on about 10 pounds since his playing days as a Cobbler, but he's learned to become an athlete on the field at the college level.

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"I was strong in high school, but I had to adjust to the field," he said. "In college, it taught me how to become an athlete and not just being strong in the weight room, but to move out on the field and be quick, side-to-side, and being able to cut. That is really what changed."

Growing up in Rapid City, Mines has always been a staple for Murphey. He said he loves the fact that he is a Hardrocker.

"It's awesome to be out here playing on a team that I watched growing up as a kid and kind of idolized," he said.

With one of the top offenses in Division II, Murphey feels he and teammate Matthew Dietz can add to the Hardrockers as a threat from the tight end position.

Tinker said that Murphey has allowed the 'Rocker offense to play a more physical style of football.

"This is the time now for him to shine. It's not like we don't do anything that he hasn't done a couple hundred times. From repetition, improvement, confidence, ball skills — they all have improved. He doesn't have to think about the coming at him any more," Tinker said. "We made a conscious effort to do a few more things with the position that we hadn't been doing before, and he has really flourished because of that."

Murphey said he had a few dropped passes last season that he aims to correct. If things go well, he'd like to add all-conference honors to his resume that includes all-state honors in high school.

"We have a lot of depth in all of our positions that can really bring in it and do good for us, and have multiple threats out on the field," said Murphey, a civil engineering major. "Everybody wants to be all-conference, but the main thing is to just win games."

The blue collar way.

Coming up

The Hardrockers will practice a few more times before their annual Spring Showcase April 12 at Sioux Park Stadium.

Action will begin at 5 p.m.

"It will be as close to a spring game as you can have in terms of what we do," Tinker said. 

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.