DUNLAP — Four years ago, Concord was still using a small weight room and Matthew Murphy was an intern at Arkansas State University. Now, both are in line for a major upgrade.

Concord High School is putting the final touches on a 13,000-square-foot fitness and performance center, and they’ve hired Murphy to be its program director.

“I felt like it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up with the people, the resources they have available, the new (fitness center) going in and finally having that opportunity to say, ‘I am a director of this program. Everything falls on me.’ That’s what I want,” Murphy said.

The process of building the new Concord Fitness and Performance Center started when assistant athletic director Rob Miller and head football coach Craig Koehler visited Noblesville High School, northeast of Indianapolis. They were impressed with their weight room — and left with a message from the Noblesville athletic director.

“He looked at both of us and said, ‘We’re pretty sure here at Noblesville that we don’t ever have to worry about any of you up north until you get something like this because you’ll never be able to keep up.’ And, that’s what they believed,” Miller said. “So, that was our incentive for us. If we want to compete at that level, we’ve got to do what the other people doing and maybe even a little more.”

Miller admitted Concord had one of the worst weight rooms in the area, mostly due to its small size. That will change with this new facility.

“Not that the facility guarantees you anything, but it provides you the tool to potentially improve performance,” Koehler said. “We’ve all come together on this thing and saw the need and did it the right way. We didn’t cut any corners, from the layout, to the size, to the equipment that’s going into it, to the person (Murphy) that’s going to be running it.”

Construction on the facility has been ongoing all summer. Koehler said the equipment for the room will arrive on Aug. 6, with hopes of using the room starting Aug. 8.

The facility will have 14 weight racks, along with various free-weight barbells. It will also have an area for cardio exercising and offices for both Murphy and other coaches.

Murphy was born and raised in Georgia. He interned at Mercer University before working at a private facility, helping train professional and Olympic athletes. He then spent four years at Arkansas State, working his way up from intern to full-time staff.

The 29-year-old worked with almost all of the sports programs at Arkansas State, including the women’s basketball and baseball teams. Murphy believes that wide range of experience will help him with his new job at Concord.

“What I’m most excited about is to put my own spin on what I think is most important and give that to these kids,” Murphy said. “The biggest thing I tried to preach to the (Arkansas State women’s basketball team) this past year was ‘These are all lessons for life. These things go past basketball, past athletics, past college. It goes into life.’

“I’d love for kids to graduate from here, come back and say, ‘Some of the things you taught me, I’m teaching my kids and I’m using in the workplace.’ Because it’s so much bigger than athletics.”

It was almost fate that brought Murphy to Concord.

Both Murphy and Koehler attended an event ran by Sorinex, an exercise equipment company that Concord is using for its fitness center, earlier in the summer. During a lunch break, Murphy decided to sit at a table with people he didn’t know. One of those people was Koehler. The two exchanged pleasantries with the rest of the table before Koehler mentioned the job opening at Concord.

Murphy raised his hand, expressing interest in the job. After a long application process, featuring two interviews and Murphy running a workout session with Concord athletes, Murphy was offered the position.

Koehler said meeting Murphy beforehand didn’t automatically give him the job.

“He earned the job. We vetted some 40-plus applicants,” Koehler said. “Certainly, it was by fate to meet, but he also earned it.”

Murphy was adamant to do both of his interviews in person. He made the 600-mile trek from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Dunlap to show how much the job meant to him.

“I think it shows who I am. If you ask the athletes that I’ve worked with at Arkansas State, they’ll tell you, ‘Yeah, that’s coach Murphy. He’d probably do something like that,’” Murphy said.

Being able to lead his own program was worth the driving for Murphy.

“My very first interview at Arkansas State, the head strength coach at the time asked me what I want to do, and I said, ‘I want to take your job. I want to be a director at a Power 5 school,’” Murphy said. “This is what I see as the same situation, just at the high school level. It’s not really any different.”

One thing Murphy, Koehler and Miller all stressed was that this is not just a football weight room. All Concord sports and classes will use the facility to train. Koehler estimated that 400 to 500 students will use the room each week.

Koehler also hopes the new fitness center brings an increase in on-field success for all Concord athletic programs.

“What you hope for is a player walks into (the new facility) and their sense of urgency and level of motivation goes up. Like, ‘Hey, our community has invested in us. Now it’s our turn to hold up our end of the bargain,’” Koehler said. “There’s no more excuses in terms of facilities for us. We’re going to be in one of the nicest places in the state of Indiana. You hope that equates to winning at a bigger scale.”

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN

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