High School Sports

Harding High coach opens heart, home to teenager who was on ‘wrong path’

Harding coach Sam Greiner and QB Braheam Murphy are helping the Rams turn around their struggling program, at the school's stadium on Wednesday, October 19, 2016. Harding football player Brahaem Murphy's life changed when he asked his coach, Sam Greiner a simple question: "Coach, can I come live with you?"
Harding coach Sam Greiner and QB Braheam Murphy are helping the Rams turn around their struggling program, at the school's stadium on Wednesday, October 19, 2016. Harding football player Brahaem Murphy's life changed when he asked his coach, Sam Greiner a simple question: "Coach, can I come live with you?" dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

This is a story about a local high school football player who has spent the past seven months living in the home of his coach and family.

It’s a story about hope, redemption and how a little gospel music, stability and family can help shape a young man’s life.

This story is about Harding High quarterback Braheam Murphy, whom second-year Rams football coach Sam Greiner met in August 2015, when Greiner was just taking over the program. Greiner soon learned a few players would be academically ineligible and wouldn’t get to play. That list included Murphy, who was a 5-foot-8, 120-pound sophomore defensive back.

“He cried a lot,” Greiner said. “He said, over and over, ‘Coach, football is all I’ve got.’ He was going to start at safety at 120 pounds.”

There was something about Murphy that touched Greiner, who found the player to be extremely bright. Greiner wondered why Murphy didn’t have the 2.0 grade-point average required to play. Murphy always had the same answer: “I have a tough situation, coach.”

Harding went 1-10 in 2015. When the season ended, Murphy often asked Greiner for a ride to his convenient store job after school. They began talking more, often about Murphy improving his grades to be eligible for his junior season in 2016. Some days, Murphy asked Greiner to drop him off at home - only home was never the same place.

“I would ask him, ‘Where are we going?’ ” Greiner said. “It was drop me here, drop me off there. I finally asked, ‘Where do you live?’ He said, ‘I stay wherever my sister goes. His sister (Dominique) was a senior.”

Murphy lost his mother, Diane, to a brain aneurysm when he was 5. His father, Dino, remarried and had a daughter, Danielle, who has cerebral palsy. Murphy said he and his sister didn’t blend well with the new family, and there wasn’t much space in the home. Before long, they began staying with friends and extended family. A couple of nights became a couple of weeks. Then it became a permanent lifestyle.

“It was hard, but I tried to keep it off my mind. I had work and my sister,” Murphy says of Dominique, who now has a job and a roommate. “She knew what we were going to do before we did it.”

The more Greiner learned about the situation, the more he wanted to help. One day last spring, he asked Braheam Murphy to live with him, his wife Connie and their daughters, ages 2 and 3.

“I got fed up with it,” said Greiner, who said he received approval from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools before moving Murphy into his home. “He didn’t really have a place to stay and the kid worked every day and never complained.

“I saw the reason why his grades were bad: no stability. I told my wife about it and we had an extra bedroom. I said to him, ‘Hey, come stay here and it’ll be easier on you.’ ”

Murphy, 17, moved in with the family in March. By the end of the school year, his grade-point average rose to 3.7, Greiner said, and Murphy had regained his football eligibility.

“He’s a junior this year,” Greiner said. “It’s about sacrifice. He made a big one. My wife (and kids) made a huge sacrifice. They’re ladies. They can’t walk around the house like they want to.”

Last spring, not long after Murphy moved in, Greiner took a bus load of his players to Clemson to watch the Tigers practice.

While there, he noticed Murphy throwing a ball around with a quick release and velocity. He didn’t have a starting quarterback in mind for the season. But now he had a candidate. Greiner, a defensive coordinator at heart, was going to work with the offense this season, so he and Murphy would be learning together.

Murphy has started five games this season, throwing for 532 yards and rushing for 111. He’s helped a team that averaged three delay penalties per game last season to none this season when he’s played. Greiner marvels at how Murphy manages the Rams (3-5), who play Providence (3-5) at home Friday.

“The boy has grown 2 inches and gained 30 pounds,” Greiner said, “and I’m reaping the benefits of that now. But listen, we’re trying to build treasures that last forever, not treasures you think about temporarily.

“We go to church together and I listen to Christian music and he sings the songs now. It’s changed the way he does things. He’s a good human being who’s been spoon-fed what the world was feeding him for so long, and to see something different changed him dramatically.”

Brahaem’s father, Dino Murphy, said he appreciates the changes in his son’s life. Dino Murphy said he moved his family to Charlotte from Philadelphia 18 years ago.

“I want (Braheam) to do the right thing,” said Dino Murphy, 52. “In Philly, you don’t get all these chances, and I want my son to have the best. (Living with Greiner) is the best thing for him right now.

“Coach is cool and I talked to the school counselors and everything came out to be good. I want the best for Braheam. Life is big and, like I said, some people don’t get the chance he is getting now.”

Braheam plans to make the most of that opportunity.

“Before, I knew I was a smart kid, but my mind was going off the wrong path,” he said. “I was with the wrong people. Now, I’m thinking about going to college, my grades are good and I’m staying focused.

“It’s a blessing coach took me into his life. I’m just grateful. I know now I’m going to make it far in life.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

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