POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - There are many reasons freshman Jimmy Murphy (Horsham, Pa.) chose to play lacrosse at Marist; the beautiful campus, the stellar academic reputation, and his connection with his teammates and head coach Keegan Wilkinson. But there was one deciding factor for Murphy; Marist is where Edward Coombs chose to play lacrosse.
Coombs, who tragically passed away in August 2011, started all 14 games for the Red Foxes during his freshman campaign, wearing his legendary number 34 jersey. He was not only an incredible student-athlete but an even greater person. Coombs left a profound impression on each life he touched and his memory is honored daily by the lacrosse programs at Marist.
Murphy began playing lacrosse in 6th grade and fell in love with the game from the first night he picked up a stick. Murphy and Coombs played lacrosse together at their high school, Hatboro-Horsham in Pennsylvania. Coombs was a senior when Murphy was a freshman and mentored Murphy during the year they were teammates.
“I was the only freshman on varsity that year,” recalls Murphy. “Eddie took me under his wing, along with the other seniors, but especially Eddie. I was always told that I played like him [Eddie]. He taught me a lot, was always there to help me out. I called him ‘dad’ my freshman year. Eddie was always someone to look up too. He was Eddie Coombs, he was a big deal.”
Having shared a bond dating back to his high school years, Murphy says that playing for Eddie is one of his biggest motivations and that it “drives him every day”. Coombs is a constant presence with the team and Murphy says that it is felt all the time.
“You see him everywhere,” said Murphy. “We talk about him every day. I feel lucky to have had a personal relationship with Eddie and have known him that well. All the other freshman always ask me about him and it’s cool that I can tell stories about him.”
Coach Wilkinson believes that having Murphy on the team has been a great way to connect the team to Coombs and their mutual hometown, Horsham.
“Having Jimmy [Murphy] as a member of the team has really helped our guys understand the importance of Eddie’s legacy outside of our family here at Marist,” said Wilkinson. “Jimmy is a tremendous ambassador for the town of Horsham. I can’t think of anyone that represents Eddie as well as he does.”
This year would have been Coombs’ senior season and Murphy said that it is evident that the team, especially the senior class, wants to win a championship this season for Coombs and his family.
“I can tell with all the seniors how much they want it for him,” Murphy relays. “They were his boys, like the freshmen are with me. This senior year for them is the biggest year. We all talk about how we don’t care personally if we get a ring, we just want to win it for Eddie, the Coombs family, and each other.”
Coach Wilkinson has been with this group of seniors since their freshman year and says that the importance of what a ring would mean to them as well as the rest of the team has been evident all year.
“Our players cherish the fact that they get to go out on a daily basis with the opportunity to represent Eddie, both on and off the lacrosse field,” said Wilkinson. “I am very proud of our senior class for all they have done to help build his legacy here at Marist. It’s their determination that has inspired all the classes that will follow them here. This goes well beyond the members of the senior class though, this is an entire family that wants this ring for Eddie.”
Murphy says that he is grateful that he chose to join the Marist lacrosse family and to continue to honor Coombs’ memory in pursuit of a championship.
“It has been a lot but it is fun. We work really hard but it’s rewarding,” said Murphy. “You feel good after a practice. It all comes down to the guys; we all motivate each other, we’re all there for each other, to help each other up. I don’t feel like a freshman, we’re all a family.”
The men’s lacrosse team kicks off the 2014 season on Friday, Feb. 14 at Stony Brook. The Red Foxes’ first home game is on Saturday, March 1. Face-off is set for 1 p.m. at Tenney Stadium.