Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting got a crash course in the business of being an NFL player in 2019. When he was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, a lot of fans and media alike were puzzled.
Cornerback was on the list of needs most people outlined for the Bucs entering April. But Murphy-Bunting wasn’t on the list of names people tied to potentially filling the spot. Turns out, the Bucs selected three defensive backs, by taking Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards later in the selection meeting.
Once the surprise of the secondary heavy draft class started to fade however, people started liking what they saw out of the second-round pick. Length, physicality, ball skills, all of it. All wrapped up in a package full of potential. Hype, as they call it, started building.
And it continued to build. All the way into training camp and the pre-season, where he struggled. At least in the eyes of the outside world. I remember leaving the stadium following the Bucs’ second pre-season game, against the Browns. I saw the young rookie standing with friends and family as I left Raymond James Stadium. And I had been seeing some of the negative marks he was getting on social media. I know players try to tune those out, but his generation is the social media generation. Hard to block it out when you grew up with it.
It wasn’t a locker room or a press conference, so I didn’t say anything to him. Instead, we left him alone to enjoy some privacy and ability to be himself with people who know the real him.
But I spoke with Bailey Adams as we made our way to the parking lot about how rough it has to be for a young guy like him, just months after arguably the best night of his life so far, now getting roasted on social media by the same fans who came to celebrate him in between.
As the season got started, words like bust started getting thrown around. People questioned Jason Licht’s ability to gauge defensive back talent. It wasn’t going well. But it’s not the first time Murphy-Bunting faced doubt, and pushed through it to become better than people thought he could be.
A tweet, pinned on his page, chronicles those experiences. It doesn’t give the full context, emotion, or reality by any means. What tweet can? But it’s important to know where Murphy-Bunting has come from, to know where he could go.
0 star recruit, 0 D1 offers on national signing day, didn’t sign to play anywhere on signing day, grayshirt offer in March... enrolled at CMU in January of 2016... 3 years later, 2019 NFL Draft Prospect. Never stop believing and chasing your dream. You control your own destiny pic.twitter.com/R8chIwmC32— Sean Murphy-Bunting (@MrSeanyB1) March 31, 2019
By the end of the year, the rookie had 44 tackles, three interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown in his home state), and a sack. He wasn’t a bust. Isn’t a bust. He’s a key member of a resurgent Bucs secondary which looked like one of the best units in the back half of the season.
Now, the fans cheer his name and the media no longer questions his selection in the second-round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
For anyone who has ever been an underdog, underappreciated, or just had people see less in you than you believe in yourself, loyalty is big. Huge, even. And now that Murphy-Bunting has reached the league, he’s making sure those who remained loyal to him, are getting loyalty in return.
It starts with his name. Sean Bunting was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April of 2019. Sean Murphy-Bunting is who stepped on the field when it came time to put in his first bit of NFL work. Why? Because ‘Murphy’ is his mother’s maiden name. And he wanted her faith and loyalty to her son to be recognized. He said it himself, in an article posted by Olivia Stacey of Spectrum News in September 2019,
“..you know - that’s my best friend, that’s my rock,” said Murphy-Bunting. “I felt like she didn’t really get enough credit for everything she’s done for me throughout my whole life...The sacrifices she put in is honestly insane, now that I look at it, now that I have time to kind of reflect on it, and have everything processed.”
Loyalty isn’t a part of everyone’s DNA. But it is a part of Sean’s. And so is appreciation for those who have believed in him from the beginning. Something he displayed again, not in a name on his jersey, but in taking his time to attend the birthday of one of his longest tenured fans, Jaydon.
In the video, shared on social media, the Buccaneers cornerback is back home in Michigan and decides to surprise Jaydon upon hearing the young fan is celebrating a birthday.
“He’s been a guy that’s been supporting me. Him and his family have been supporting me since my days in high school, my days in college, and my days in the NFL. And so it was only right, and it felt right, to come out and hang out with him and surprise him for his birthday.”
Jaydon’s excitement to see the Michigan native is evident from the moment he sees him, and he talks about having dreams Buccaneers including Murphy-Bunting surprised him on his birthday.
Towards the end of the video, while speaking to the family, Murphy-Bunting talks about appreciating people for their support, saying,
“...You never forget who supports you. You have people who don’t start supporting you until you get to this level....I notice things like that. I definitely notice that you guys have always been there, so I always make it my job to, whenever you guys make it somewhere I am I always acknowledge that you're there.”
You can see the full video on Murphy-Bunting’s Twitter, or in the embed below.
It’s a great moment for a young fan and player to share an appreciation for each other. The off-season is generally filled with talking about why team’s are or aren’t successful, which players need to be replaced, and other things which can have negative undertones.
So, it’s good to see something like this happening during the off-season. For it to be shared so everyone can witness the display of loyalty and appreciation which helped Murphy-Bunting become one of the reasons many Buccaneers fans are excited to see what 2020 holds for their favorite franchise.
Thanks for sharing, Sean.
Jaydon has always been a supporter of mine throughout my entire career, so what better way to show my appreciation by making an appearance at his birthday party at his house I had an absolute blast talking to the family and talking football with my buddy Jaydon pic.twitter.com/jbUlAHflEp— Sean Murphy-Bunting (@MrSeanyB1) February 12, 2020