Moffat County’s Evan Atkin, Cort Murphy sign for college sports
Whether in the classroom, in a stadium or both, Moffat County student-athletes have proved themselves in many respects throughout the past four years, and this week saw two of them take the next step.
MCHS hosted a signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon for seniors Evan Atkin and Cort Murphy to ink their letters of intent to play college sports at Colorado Mesa University and Chadron State College, respectively.
Atkin signed to compete in track and field for the CMU Mavericks, fulfilling a role that is indicative of how he has competed in high school. MoCo track coach Todd Trapp described Atkin as a “multi,” who is capable of doing nearly anything in various sports.
“It’s really hard to know where to put Evan, because he can be in many different events and be successful,” Trapp said. “Being a multi takes a ton of time, and he’ll have to commit a ton of time to not only his studies but all those individual events. It’s going to challenge him in many different ways, and it will be exciting to see how he progresses as a track and field athlete.”
In the past few years, Atkin has been a state competitor and placer in relays, long jump and high jump, as well as a standout as the top male athlete of the 3A Western Slope League his junior year. Most recently, he set a school record in the 400-meter dash, edging out a time that’s been the ideal for 40 years.
At Mesa, Atkin expects to be utilized in any capacity for the track team, likely tackling the decathlon, which is 10 events in one.
Most of the portions will be familiar, though he is expecting pole vault — an endeavor that was nearly added to the Bulldog track program this year — to be the toughest part.
“That’ll be a learning curve,” he said. “It’s a lot of full-body control.”
Atkin said he’s not expecting too big of a culture shock at a school less than three hours away in Grand Junction where he’ll also be rooming with a buddy, fellow senior Marcos Romero.
He will study mechanical engineering alongside his athletic endeavors, and though he imagines Maverick coaches will have high expectations, he said Moffat County sports personnel have helped him stay focused.
“It’s been great to learn from them and grow over the years,” Atkin said.
On top of track, he’s angling to be a walk-on recruit for CMU football, a sport in which he’s particularly excelled as an upperclassman.
Atkin received myriad distinctions the last two years on the gridiron, among them leading the entire state in regular season touchdowns as a junior and being a two-team CHSAA All-State honoree.
A postseason injury in 2021 nearly kept him out of the sport, though if the past fall was any indication, he’s not done yet.
“I didn’t think I would even have an opportunity to do football in college, so I was just focused on track, but then I started getting in touch with some football coaches and it could be a possibility,” Atkin said.
Like Atkin, Murphy has been a multi-faceted athlete for the Bulldogs, competing in basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. Still, it’s the fall activity tied to Friday Night Lights that’s been his true love, which is why he’s headed to Chadron State in Nebraska to play football.
“I was looking at Mesa and Wyoming, but in the end I decided on that,” he said.
With plans to study wildlife management at the school, Murphy added that he’ll be a third-generation Eagle, following his mother and grandparents. One of his high school coaches, Nick Colgate, also played football for Chadron.
“After talking with them and touring the school, it really made me want to play there,” Murphy said.
Though he could handle offense or defense, he expects college coaches will want to use him more on one side than the other.
“Probably more on defense on the linebacker side. They’ll be giving me a year to get bigger and get ready for it,” he said.
Suiting up for varsity as early as freshman year — including being called on to be under center for a 2019 playoff game — Murphy was the league leader in interceptions as a junior. He was the starting quarterback at the beginning of his senior season only to have to switch to tight end after recovering from a mid-season knee injury.
“It was a little rough when I got hurt, but we did what we had to do and got it done,” he said.
Murphy had 426 passing yards and was only picked off once, as well as rushing for 161 yards with five touchdowns. On defense, he led the team in tackles, averaging more than 10 per game with 82 total, and was among the top five in the conference.
After overseeing him on the field for the past several years, coach Lance Scranton spoke on Murphy’s behalf Wednesday.
“Cort’s been a great leader for us all four years,” he said. “Cort embraces the grind, and he loves to get better. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does at Chadron.”
Murphy said he hopes to make the most of college sports, aware it will be a small part of his larger life.
“It’s gonna fly by just like high school did, but I’m gonna go out there and have fun,” Murphy said.
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