CLEMSON, S.C. — This past summer, Scotch Plains’ John Murphy made a hard-thought and painful decision that caused a stir throughout the nearby soccer community. 

In pursuit of a professional soccer career, Murphy decided to leave Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and its renowned soccer program. As a result, he could focus on the sport 24-7 and develop into an even more premier midfielder at the New York Red Bulls Academy. 

This, he hoped, would result in either a professional contract or major college offer. 

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“My main reason to leave SPF this year was to be in a pro environment and train at the highest level, as well as learn what it takes to get there,” Murphy said. 

The fruits of Murphy’s labor were achieved Wednesday, when the 18-year-old announced on Twitter his commitment to play at national powerhouse Clemson University in South Carolina. He is now the seventh member of the Raiders’ 2016 sectional championship team to be playing a Division I sport, five of which play soccer. 

“Clemson will develop me not only as a player but as a man,” Murphy told hours after his commitment Wednesday night. “[They] have all the resources and facilities to develop me physically and make me stronger, faster, and over all better.”

Through the years, Murphy was seen as the type of player who could turn professional very early in his career. Some thought it could even happen for him sooner than it did to his brother, James, who currently plays for Los Angeles F.C. of Major League Soccer and signed his first pro contract at age 18. 

In fact, it nearly happened this spring, when John was promoted to the New York Red Bulls II team — the club’s final stop before the Major League team. But when Clemson offered, Murphy knew that attending the prestigious school would be beneficial in more ways than one when pondering his future in soccer and life. 

“I decided to go to college to elevate my game, become stronger and faster, and ultimately get a bit of the college experience,” Murphy, who took classes online to graduate high school on time, said. “I get to play in front of some of the best fans in the country weather it is for just a year or all four.”  

Murphy credited the Red Bulls organization and its staff for helping him become a better player, as well. 

Playing for a prestigious program in Clemson will certainly give Murphy exposure on the national level while he refines his skills. The Tigers finished last season as the No. 10-ranked team in the nation. Four of the other teams ranked ahead of them are ACC divisional rivals, which shows that Murphy will be competing against world-class competition on a daily basis. 

Murphy’s advanced tactical and scoring skills should turn Clemson, which has made the NCAA men’s soccer tournament each of the last six seasons, into a National Championship contender. Though Murphy will be the only New Jersey native on the Tigers’ roster, he is joined by the some of best colligate players from the United States, in addition to athletes from England, Spain, Senegal, and South America. 

Competing against the country’s best collegiate programs while vying for playing time on a roster copious in talent should set Murphy up to ink a professional deal sometime very soon relative to his career. 

“My main goal was to become a pro as soon as possible,” he said, “and I knew it might take coming to a big school like this to get me there.”

Though his time at Scotch Plains-Fanwood was short, Murphy will always be remembered for the season he put together on one of program's best teams in recent history. The midfielder overpowered high school competition and led a state final Raiders team in goals (18) while dishing out 10 assists. He was named to the Newark Star Ledger's First Team, All-State and was the Union County Player of the Year. 

In addition to Murphy, that team will have four other players at the Division I level starting this fall: Tommy DeVizio (Rutgers), Andrew Murray (Rutgers), Sean Murray (Monmouth), Ryan Peterson (Delaware). Division I lacrosse players David Walker (Rutgers) and Jack Brady (Wagner) were also on the squad. 

Murphy and Clemson will embark on the 2018-19 NCAA season in mid-August, when the pre-season begins. The team, coached by Mike Noonan, opens up the season at Creighton on August 24 in Omaha, Neb.