When Matt Murnion landed on the artificial turf at Alumni Coliseum during Wednesday morning’s practice for Saturday’s Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star Football Game, he knew it wasn’t good.
The star from Harlowton dislocated his right shoulder.
“Right away I knew I was done for the week,” he said. “It was pretty bad.”
As Belt’s Jeff Graham, the head coach of the Blue team, drove Murnion to St. James Healthcare, the defensive end had two questions for his coach.
First, he asked if the coach could try not to hit any bumps on the short drive to the hospital.
The next question was about the pregame introductions for the 31st edition of the game, which will be played at 7 p.m. at Alumni Coliseum.
“I was like ‘You’re still going to introduce me, right?'” Murnion said. “He’s was like, ‘We’ll still do that and introduce you at (Friday’s) banquet.’ I was like, ‘That’s good because I could still be somewhat part of it.'”
Murnion will wear his Blue No. 60 uniform and hear his name announced over the loud speakers during the introductions, which begin at 6:40 in front of an expected crowd of 3,000 plus.
“It will be the biggest crowd I ever had my name called in,” Murnion said. “It will be pretty cool.”
The 2014 Cleverley was supposed to be Murnion’s chance to end his football career the right way.
His last game for the Harlowton Engineers was one he’d rather forget. Murnion injured his hip flexor and limped around the field as his team missed the playoffs with a 4-4 record.
“I tried to play a few plays, but I just couldn’t run,” he said. “I thought it was going to be my last game ever, so I was trying to stick it out and play. It was just too torn. It took me a while to get back from that.”
When word came that Murnion was selected to play in “The Clev,” he was at first surprised.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I thought my friend was going to make it, Kenny Hooper. I just thought he was so much of a better player than I was. I thought he did such a better job playing D-end, but somehow, some way I got picked over him.
“It was shocked. I was shocked for like the week after I knew.”
When the surprise wore off, the excitement set in.
“It is what it is, and I was just jacked,” Murnion said. “I’ve got one more football game left.”
The honor was the perfect cap to a three-sport prep career. Murnion started the last two and a half years in football. He played running back and defensive end as a senior.
In basketball, Murnion played guard and post for the Engineers. In track, he ran the 100, 200 and 400 to go along with both relays. He competed in the relays at the Class C State meet last week in Great Falls.
Then the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Murnion came to Butte and rushed the quarterback in practice.
“I dove after him and missed,” he said. “Just the impact of the ground snapped it.”
Murnion said it wasn’t the artificial turf that injured him.
“The way I landed it was going out no matter what,” he said of his shoulder. “I had a brace on it, but I don’t think it was tight enough. I don’t think it would have mattered much.”
Murnion knew what had happened. He dislocated the same shoulder snowboarding a little more than a year earlier.
“The trainer tried on the field to put it back in, and it didn’t go,” Murnion said. “Then the doctor said he couldn’t get it in. He was yanking on my shoulder two different ways. They had to put me completely out to put it back in because my shoulder wouldn’t relax.”
The only silver lining for Murnion, whose right arm will be resting in a sling throughout the week, is that he is left handed.
“I’m a lefty,” he said. “It’s the only good thing about it.”
Nobody would blame Murnion if he simply went home. Instead, he decided to try to make the most out of the week.
“I’m not going to leave or anything like that,” he said. “I’m still hanging out with my teammates and just having a good time.”
The Cleverley is a unique experience that often makes life-long friends out of players who spent the previous four years as enemies.
“It’s kind of different coming and playing with guys — some that you know and some that you don’t know —and playing football with them and against them,” Murnion said.
Murnion, who plans to study business at a two-year college in Billings, was well aware of “The Clev” long before he got the nod to play in the game.
It is a game he strived to compete in. It is a game that, even though injured, he still feels very much a part of.
“I knew because last year (Harlowton) had a senior, Cole Taber, who made it,” Murnion said. “It was one of my personal goals to make it here. I’m still here.”