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THE MAN IN THE ARENA

 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


Speech by Theodore Roosevelt
Paris, France
April 23, 1910

THE MAN IN THE ARENA

 

Nick Murphy never quit trying. No matter what he set his mind to, he tried his best to achieve it. That did not always mean that he succeeded. In fact, he did not. When Nick told us he wanted to try and become a Navy SEAL, we thought he was a little bit crazy because he was not a high school swimmer, was not a long distance runner, and was only 5' 7" tall and weighed 145 pounds soaking wet. The one thing he was, however, was a great athlete, very smart and totally driven to succeed. There was also one thing we never questioned. And that was Nick's heart, his work ethic, his dedication, his love of our country, and his belief that "through God nothing was impossible". That phrase was on his brother Grant's wall in his room and Nick followed that statement his whole life. With Nick, there truly was nothing impossible. Based on that alone, we already knew that anything was possible for Nick if he put his mind to it, including becoming a Navy SEAL.

 

Thus, began Nick's journey of trying to become a Navy SEAL. He learned how to swim like a SEAL, run like a SEAL, shoot like a SEAL, do all of the push ups, sit ups, pull ups and all of the other necessities for him to be in the kind of superior physical and mental shape necessary to try to become a Navy SEAL. At the age of 18, with our total support, he joined the United States Navy and started his quest. That journey took him to Great Lakes, Illinois for boot camp to pre-BUD/S training in Chicago with Olympic caliber trainers in swimming, running, and lifting weights, to San Diego and Coronado, California for BUD/S training. By the time he was done, he swam like a fish, could do hundreds of situps and push ups and numerous pull ups, could run 10 mile runs at an 8 minute pace like it was nothing, all with a heavy back pack on his back, and knew how to get "wet and sandy" on the beach in California in freezing cold water. Nothing to it if you put your mind to it. And that is what Nick did. He put his mind to it and his body followed.

 

Several months later, after starting with a class of over 600 people trying out to be a Navy SEAL in BUD/S, his class had been shrunk down to less than 50 people and Nick and his fellow teenagers had not made it through on their first try. Not unusual for those few kids that were under 20 years old, but still disappointing for all of them. There is a reason that BUD/S training is for the best of the best. It takes not just the physical skills necessary to be a world class athlete, but also a mental toughness and maturity that few teenagers have. Very few 18 and 19 year olds make it on their first try and Nick and his close friends were no exception. However, he was going back and he was determined to succeed the second time around.

 

When Nick failed in his first attempt, he and his fellow classmates were disappointed, but determined. They were determined to go back and make it. And that is what Nick was training for when he was killed. When Nick joined the Navy, we thought he was in great shape and weighed about 150 pounds. Over the next six months, he worked harder than ever. By the time he started the "real" BUD/S training in early July, 2016, he still weighed 150 pounds, but that 150 pounds on his body had been totally transformed. He was lean and mean and ready to roll. He looked and felt great. Then, over the first six days of BUD/S, Nick worked harder than ever and tried his best. In those six days, his training was 18 hours a day non-stop on the go. He went from 150 pounds down to 139 pounds even though he was taking in thousands of calories a day. That is how hard BUD/S really is. To say BUD/S training is hard is an understatement. It really is special and brings out the best in everyone who can survive it. Nick told me a month before he died it was the greatest six months of his life and that he was going to make it the second time around. He told me that the success rate for those that failed when they first tried when they were under 20 years old and then went back two years later was very high because they knew then what type of physical and mental demands were needed and knew what it took to succeed. I have no doubt Nick Murphy would have made in the next time he tried.

 

When I saw Nick in September, he had gained back all of his weight loss and actually was up to 157 pounds of muscle. He was working out hard and preparing himself for the future. When he died on November 19, 2016, he weighed 167 pounds. In those last four months prior to his death, Nick has gained over 20 pounds of muscle and as he liked to say "He was huge". Never has there been a statement so true. Nick Murphy was "huge" in every sense of the word and that is why so many people have supported the Nicholas J. Murphy Foundation in just the first few months. Nick was a special young man and his legacy will continue long into the future as we move forward in his honor. 

 

After Nick and his buddies had left BUD/S training and were moving on in their next adventure to Pensacola, Nick came across a speech of Theodore Roosevelt from 1910 that would become his favorite quote and become a major part of Nick's life. It was all about success and failure, and the drive to succeed. It meant a lot to Nick and to us, so much so that it was used at his funeral in both Pensacola with the Navy and at home here in Peoria. It is all about failure, and all about effort. It signifies who Nick was as a young man, as a son, as a brother, and as a sailor for the United States Navy. Nick never was one to sit on the sidelines. He was always in the middle of the mix, fighting to prevail and to be the best he could be and to make all those around him the best they could be. Nick always thought he was the toughest and biggest guy in the room, and to all those that knew him, he really was. Nick was "The Man in the Arena" his entire life.