Murphy High School honored a successful alumnus this morning, designating Monday as KJ Maye day at the school.
Maye, a 2011 graduate who has spent the past four years as a football player and student at the University of Minnesota, is back in Mobile this week to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was honored in an assembly Monday morning in the Panthers’ gymnasium.
“This shows a lot of love,” Maye said. “Everyone doesn’t get that opportunity to be able to come back here after four years at college away from home and … be recognized by your high school. It’s a great feeling.”
Maye started 20 games in four years at Minnesota, including 12 as a senior in a breakout 2015 season. His 73 catches this year were second-most in school history and his 773 yards were the most for a Gopher receiver since Eric Decker’s 1,074 in 2008. He also scored five touchdowns.
Maye, who is set to graduate in May with a degree in sociology, praised the preparation he got at Murphy for helping him succeed on the field and in the classroom in college.
“Murphy is a great school,” he said. “The preparation that I had here, especially academically, I had teachers who wanted to help, they gave a helping hand. Football-wise, these coaches, you’ve got the best around. They’re passionate about what they do and they really care about the players. They care about you off the field and they care about what you do on the field. That goes a long way.”
Maye helped Murphy to a 22-12 record from 2009-11, piling up 1,122 yards passing, 1,041 yards rushing and 24 total touchdowns during his senior year. Murphy football coach Rick Cauley described Maye as “one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever known.”
Ronn Lee, who was head coach at Murphy while Maye was there, said Maye’s leadership helped ease the transition to a new offensive scheme and his work ethic inspired his teammates and even his coaches.
“He always outworked everybody,” Lee said of Maye. “When KJ walked in the building, I didn’t sit behind my desk. I went ahead and got on up. KJ’s one of the only people I’ve ever coached who has come up to me on the field and said, ‘Coach, you’d better pick it up a little bit.’ That’s the way he was.
“He always represented his school well. He was so proud of Murphy High School and he still is.”
After accepting his framed No. 1 Murphy jersey, Maye challenged the current students in attendance to work hard, even when no one is watching, and to chase their dreams wherever they lead.
“If you get an opportunity to go to college, if you get an opportunity to do anything that you’ve been dreaming about doing, don’t be afraid to branch out,” Maye said. “I’m from Mobile and I went to Minnesota and played there four years. I didn’t think about leaving, I didn’t think about coming back home. It’s far away from home, it’s cold. But you look at the opportunities you have in front of you.”
Maye will participate in a week of practices in front of professional scouts this week in preparation for Saturday’s Senior Bowl, set for 1:30 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The practices and game are an audition of sorts for college players who are hopeful of being drafted by NFL teams.