From Liberia to the U.S., Murphy brothers build special bond
There were a lot of high hopes for the Marion boys soccer team this season, especially for the Murphy brothers, Jaffer, Levi and Sam. This would've been their final year together on the pitch, but they never got that chance after the season was canceled because of COVID-19.
"Being my senior year, having the last year to play with my brothers and the Marion soccer team, it was difficult," Jaffer said.
"It was really hard, but we knew that it was probably the best decision for the circumstances and what was going on," Levi said.
They've played soccer together ever since middle school. Every time they stepped on the field, you knew they had played soccer together a long time.
"When I pass it to Levi, I know when he's going to go score it," Jaffer said. "When I give the through ball pass to Samuel, I know he's going to beat every single defender with his speed and score. So I can just sit back and laugh and think, this guy's going to score."
"Practicing in the backyard was kind of tough for me at the beginning," Sam said. "I didn't really enjoy it quite as much, but then once I set aside how I feel and started thinking more about that we're a team, we're a family, it became a lot more enjoyable."
And the idea of family has gotten them through so much in their lives
Jaffer, Levi and Sam aren't actually brothers, by blood. All three of them were born in Liberia, which was going through its second civil war at the time. In 2006, all three of them were sent to an orphanage by their families.
Back in the U.S., Sean and Maya Murphy were married seven years, but were told they couldn't conceive a child. They helped some family friends with their adoption process and wanted to do more for the orphanage, but not adopt. That all changed once they saw the pictures.
"Levi and Jaffer were standing there together and it looked like they were holding hands," Maya said. "Jaffer had a Bugs Bunny shirt on, it had a tear in it. They were in flip-flops. And he looked kind of protective. I thought, he looks like he cares about this little guy and he'll be a good protector. And then Samuel's picture was just a head shot of him and he had this serious, grumpy little look on his face. I thought, if I could bring a smile to that kid's face, I would be thrilled."
Maya was on board right away in adopting all three boys, while Sean needed a little bit of extra time to decide.
"I knew too much to go back, but I didn't have the courage to move forward," Sean said. "So I was stuck in this place of not knowing what to do. Really, I just prayed about it a lot."
The adoption process only took six months and they were a family. It hasn't been easy at times, but there's nothing they would ever change.
"Statistically, only 50-percent of kids in Africa make it to the age of 5," Sam said. "Me and Levi were 3 and Jaffer was 4, and so, we were coming up to either making it or not making it. These guys, they saved us."
"I'm really grateful that I've known what it's like to have a family because there's no telling what could've happened back in Africa, being an orphan," Levi said.