Virgen's View: Murtha doing work

A cloth ladder was placed on the sand at Brookhurst, along with cones nearby and sticks strategically placed to cause cutting moves for Estancia High star running back Robert Murtha.

Every Sunday for the past five weeks, Murtha has been going through an intense workout to prepare for an important senior season. This certainly isn't a day at the beach.

He also hops over metal rings dug into the sand and closes the challenging training session with a 40-yard sprint while hooked up to a parachute.

Murtha needs water every so often. He needs to rest at times. He also knows he must be careful to avoid any injuries as he continues to work.

Several colleges have shown interest in the 5-foot-10, 194-pound aggressive runner. Colorado is on his trail, said Murtha's father, Robert Murtha Sr. The younger Murtha has also attracted Army, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, San Jose State, Fresno State, Nevada, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State.

The dream of playing for an NCAA Division I program motivated Estancia's Murtha to take on the extra day of training at the beach. Sometimes teammates will join him. Other times he'll go on his own with his father.

Afterward they lift weights at Estancia.

"This is like when you're getting a tattoo, you're excited for it and when you're in the middle of it, you say, 'why in the hell am I doing this,'" Murtha said of the beach workouts. "You have to realize you're not just doing it for yourself. You're doing it for the entire Estancia football program."

Murtha led the Eagles to their best season in school history last year, as they reached the CIF Southern Section Southern Division semifinals. While Murtha worked out on Sunday, his father shouted, "three straight league titles! Come on!"

Estancia has won two straight Orange Coast League championships without a loss with Murtha toting the rock the majority of the time.

"He wants that extra edge," the elder Murtha said of his son. "I kept telling him we need to go to the beach since his sophomore year. As soon as this year came he said let's hit the beach. It's all about him wanting that next level. He wants to get to that next level."

Robert Jr. is aware of the importance of this season. All eyes will be on him, especially after a stellar junior year. He set a single-season school record with 2,216 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. In two varsity seasons, he has rushed for 3,895 yards and 39 touchdowns.

He is closing in on the Newport-Mesa career rushing record of 4,333 yards. That record was set by Costa Mesa's Binh "Runaway" Tran from 1991-93.

Murtha has been known as "Boy," a nickname given to him by his father. The Boy has become a man. He has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40.

He believes the beach workouts can help him gain more speed and more power.

"I've learned that no matter what the task is, I can pull through," Murtha said of what he's learned through training at the beach. "I've had injuries. I've had obstacles that I've had to overcome. To come out here running in the sand, and finding deep down I can do it, it let's me know I can do anything."


Last year, the city of Costa Mesa enjoyed two of the best high school running backs in its history with Murtha and the Mustangs' Mario Smith.

It doesn't look like there will be much of a drop-off this fall, as Costa Mesa's Oronde Crenshaw is set to take over as the lead back in his junior year for the Mustangs.

"He's a great back; he's a great football player," Murtha said of Crenshaw. "I have nothing against him at all. It's going to be a great season for both me and him. I'm not really going to say much on his skills, but I know he can play ball. I'm not trying to take away anything from him. I just know it's going to be a great season for both of us."

Crenshaw is expected to be one of the top players for the Mustangs this season, a game-changer who has the ability to dominate on offense and defense.

However Crenshaw's opportunity to excel does not play into Murtha's motivation.

"To be honest I don't focus on that stuff," Murtha said. "I just focus on myself, on my season, about what I can do to be the best I can be, and not worry about what other people are going to be doing."



Murtha's junior year

Murtha beach training (ladder)

Murtha beach training (parachute)

Murtha beach training (interview)

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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