Ryan football coach following in uncle’s footsteps

Ryan coach Billy Murphy (right) has learned a lot from his uncle Joe McDermott. So has Murphy’s kids, McDermott and Seely. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Joe McDermott is a big fan of the Raiders.

McDermott wants to see the Archbishop Ryan High School football team have a great year. He would love to see the team that is coached by his nephew Bill Murphy and is led by junior tight end and defensive end McDermott Murphy, Bill’s son who was named after Joe, win the Catholic League Blue Division and make some noise in the state playoffs.

But he’s not quite looking for the Raiders to go undefeated.

“When they play Judge, I want Judge to win,” said Joe McDermott, who spent 31 years coaching the Crusaders baseball team. “I love them and I want them to do well, but I’m with Judge. I went to Roman, but when they play I want Judge to win. Whenever Judge plays, it doesn’t matter who they’re playing, I want them to win.”

When you’re a legend at a school, that’s just how things go.

McDermott won 319 games, five Catholic League championships and a city title during his days at Judge. He got the job shortly after he graduated from college. He also coached in the Pendel baseball league on top of his 36 years at Judge.

He worked three jobs for most of his life, not only teaching at Judge, but he also worked for the city at playgrounds. He spent 15 years at Tarken Playground.

But he made his biggest mark at Judge where he not only helped his guys become better baseball players, but also better people.

It has a lot to do with why his nephew ultimately got into coaching.

“I grew up in Juniata, and I was the only guy there who wore a Judge hat,” said Murphy, a 1996 graduate of Judge who is in his second year as coach at Ryan. “I loved the rivalry, and I started at North, but when open enrollment came around, I went to Judge. I always wanted to play for my uncle because of the kind of man he was.

“I try to do the same things he did. He went all out for his players. Everyone loved him because of the person he was. I hope to do the same for my players.”

McDermott doesn’t talk about what he did for his guys, but he loves to talk about the good times he had while coaching Judge.

In fact, he’s still a Judge guy. Prior to the pandemic, he would volunteer at the school. Now he spends a lot of his time in Sea Isle, but as soon as the world opens back up, he hopes to return to his role.

“I love being around the school,” said McDermott, who coached until 2006 and taught until 2016. “With everything going on, they weren’t letting volunteers in the school, but if that changes, I’ll be happy to be back.”

That’s kind of the same attitude his nephew has at Ryan.

If you go to the school, there’s a good chance one of the first people you’ll see is Murphy. If he’s not running practice, he’s working on the fields or doing jobs that need to be done.

“I learned so much from (McDermott),” Murphy said. “He was a father figure to me, he taught his players to become men and he always put in extra work. He was always working and I think people followed his lead.”

If you need to know how much McDermott meant to his players, you need to look no further than the recent Judge reunion in North Wildwood this summer.

A group of his players had shirts made with his picture, name and 319 wins.

“I didn’t know they were doing it, they just showed it to me,” McDermott said. “I was sitting at the bar and the guys would come up and tap me on the shoulder and tell me who they were. I remember all the teams. The players are special. We had a lot of good players.

“Coaching was different then. The games have changed. You didn’t recruit, you just coached the guys who showed up. We had a lot of great players come in. We had fun.”

No doubt McDermott loved coaching, but he also loved to play the game and he loved to win. That’s something that was passed down to his nephew, and his nephew passed it down to his son.

That determination comes from Derm.

“I think it’s great that I’m named after him, I know how special he is,” said McDermott Murphy, who is also a star baseball player at Ryan. “I always heard a lot of stories about him and now I’m getting to hear more of them. My dad will always tell me stories. He was a great coach and he is a great man.

“I think that’s the biggest thing my dad tried to teach me, to compete. I want to win. I know my dad wants to win. And I know that’s how (McDermott) was, too. Very competitive.”

Murphy doesn’t want to upset his uncle, but he is looking forward to playing Judge. It will be a tough day for McDermott, but it’s a day Murphy is looking forward to.

“We are really excited about the Judge rivalry because of who they are,” Murphy said. “They’re a great school with a great program. The rivalry is there. We respect them and I think it’s mutual. North-Judge had that rivalry when I was in school, when he was coaching at Judge, and I want that rivalry between Judge and Ryan.

“You’ll see Ryan flags and Judge flags. Both schools are so proud. That’s what makes great rivalries.”

McDermott isn’t too worried about rivalries these days. But he’ll always be a Judge guy and this year, he’ll even be a Ryan fan.

“I hope they win every game but Judge,” McDermott said. “I think (Murphy) is going to do great things at Ryan. I’m proud of him.”

Derm shirts were a popular item at the Father Judge reunion in Wildwood. CONTRIBUTED