Harvard football coach Tim Murphy remembers walking into the locker room before a practice about a decade ago about finding one of his players injecting himself with a needle.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, what do we have here?’ I’m thinking the worst — we’ve got a kid shooting up or something.”
Turns out, the player was All-Ivy defender Niall Murphy and he’d never told Coach that he was battling juvenile diabetes. He had to inject himself four times a day and during games he’d occasionally need a break to take a glucose pill and regain both vision and focus.
The Massachusetts native never let it stand in his way. He didn’t just play football for the Crimson, he was also one of two hurdlers on the Harvard track team.
The other was Eric LaHaie, who, like Murphy, was also an All-Ivy defender on the Crimson football team. Such athletic commonality, the two had a deep bond. Together in 2001, the football season was scheduled to start the week of 9/11, but footballs were laid to rest that weekend. In a fall so stripped of joy by the terrorist attacks, Harvard went unbeaten and untied for the first time in 88 years.
Their athletic journeys ended together in the summer of 2003, when they made the memorable trip to England for the Oxford-Cambridge meet and brought back the Naughton Trophy. LaHaie supplied the accompanying photos, one of Murphy with the flags above and with All-American teammate Chris Lambert on the right.
In February of this year, Murphy passed away suddenly from complications of the diabetes at age 31. LaHaie, who has taken to endurance running, is now running in his friend’s honor. He is preparing for Sahara Race 2011, a grueling seven-day trek which ends at the Pyramids of Giza. Tempatures could rise above 120 degrees.
He is looking to raise both money and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. You can help the cause by clicking here.
“Niall was my teammate, my wingman, and my best friend,” writes LaHaie. “I have never met a more genuine and free spirited guy in my life. We were two peas in a pod, and I miss him dearly, as do all his friends and family. But his memory and legacy with always live on in our hearts and minds.”