By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – When opportunity knocks, George “Tyrus” Murdoch doesn’t just open the door. He tears it off the hinges using his massive 6-foot-7, 375-pound frame.
That’s how the former University of Nebraska at Kearney football player and current professional wrestler, actor, author, comedian and TV personality approaches life. He learned early on that nothing is guaranteed.
“You never know what your path is going to be, but if you’re able to deal with the punches in the mouth and you find a way to believe in yourself and keep working, doors will open up and success will find you,” Murdoch said. “I’m a strong believer that hard work will always pay off – it just might not be the payoff you were expecting.”
The self-proclaimed “jack of all trades, master of some” has proven this time after time.
‘FOOTBALL SAVED MY LIFE’
A Los Angeles native, Murdoch experienced a rough and unpredictable childhood. He and his brother lived in foster homes before reuniting with their young mother, who often worked up to 80 hours a week to support the family.
“We moved around a lot,” Murdoch said. “We were never really in the same place longer than six months. She just went where the job went. There wasn’t a lot of stability.”
Things didn’t get any better when Murdoch’s stepfather entered the picture. They didn’t see eye to eye, so Murdoch decided to leave the household around age 15.
He stayed with friends and coaches, even “spent a couple nights hiding in the school locker room” because he was too proud to ask for help. Sports were the most consistent and comforting part of his life.
“They kept me off the streets and gave me an opportunity,” he said. “Football saved my life. No question. I’d be in jail or dead if it wasn’t for football.
“I got the father figures. I got accountability. I got best friends for life. Something to fight for. Something to strive for. Something to look forward to. Something to fear. It was just something I wanted to be a part of. You wanted to be part of a team where everybody worked together as one. And you had to earn it. Nothing was given to you on the football field.”
It also gave him an opportunity to pursue higher education.
After high school, Murdoch attended Antelope Valley College in California, where he was an all-conference offensive lineman. His size and physical style caught the attention of the UNK coaches, who invited him to campus for spring ball.
Initially, Murdoch wasn’t convinced a Division II school would be the right fit, but he quickly changed his mind.
“They flew me out here and I saw Kearney had the same facilities as every DI school I looked at,” he said. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Murdoch played two seasons for the Lopers as part of an offensive line that averaged more than 300 pounds per player. The 1994 team went 8-3, including a 13-12 victory at Nebraska-Omaha that still stands out in his mind.
Along with the big wins, he also cherishes the relationships he developed at UNK and the lessons he learned from coaches like Claire Boroff, Darrell Morris and Scott Hoffman.
“They taught me how to be a man,” he said. “I had no idea what accountability was, the importance of keeping your word. I learned the value of hard work at UNK.”
Murdoch went on to play arena football and he even had some tryouts with NFL teams. That was one dream worth chasing.
The other was earning his degree, which is why he returned to campus to complete the remaining credits. He graduated from UNK in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, but couldn’t afford the cap and gown so he didn’t attend the commencement ceremony.
“The way Kearney is, people would have pitched in and bought me the gown. They would have made sure I was there. But I was always too proud to say I couldn’t do it on my own,” he said.
TELLING PEOPLE HOW IT IS
After an injury ended his football career, Murdoch made ends meet by substitute teaching during the day and bouncing at clubs during the night. At one point, he worked as a bodyguard for rap icon Snoop Dogg.
“Then things just kind of started falling into place,” he explained. “The weirdest little things would happen.”
Among them, a bar fight involving two patrons at a California club where Murdoch was working security. He “clunked their little heads together and carried them out like a suitcase,” all while cracking jokes. Professional wrestler Tommy Dreamer happened to witness this entertaining exchange and thought it’d make for great TV.
In 2006, Murdoch made his pro-wrestling debut with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), competing under the moniker Brodus Clay. He joined Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now Impact Wrestling) in 2014 and officially became Tyrus, now a household name in the entertainment industry.
Tyrus is the current world heavyweight champion in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and a popular Fox News personality who appears regularly on the late-night program “Gutfeld!”
That’s another weird little thing that happened.
Tyrus actually called out host Greg Gutfeld on social media, leading to some good-humored banter between the two and eventually an invitation to appear on the show, which approaches politics with a satirical spin. Known for his sharp wit and wry sense of humor, Tyrus joined Fox News in 2016.
Also appearing on programs such as “Outnumbered,” “Fox & Friends,” “The Five” and “The Daily Briefing,” Tyrus likes to “tell people how it is,” which shouldn’t surprise his former UNK teammates or opponents.
“I was pretty good on the field, but the thing I was most known for is that I never shut up the entire game,” he said with a smile. “Coach Boroff was not a big fan of my trash talking, but Coach Morris encouraged it.”
As an actor, Tyrus has been featured in TV series such as “The Purge,” “MacGyver” and “Syn,” as well as the horror film “No One Lives.” He hosts the “Tyrus & Timpf Podcast” with Kat Timpf and his 2022 autobiography “Just Tyrus: A Memoir” was a New York Times bestseller. His second book, “Nuff Said,” is scheduled to be released in November.
He’s also performing live comedy shows across the country.
That’s what brought Tyrus back to Kearney last month – his first visit since he was a student here 25 years ago.
The full-circle moment included a sold-out performance at The World Theatre, preceded by a campus tour and special meet-and-greet where Mayor Stan Clouse presented him a key to the city. He was also surprised with a Loper football helmet and that UNK degree he never got to accept.
His wife Ingrid and two of his children were there to witness the emotional moment.
“The roots to all of my success stem from that piece of paper, and to finally be able to have that and show it to my children,” he said before pausing to collect himself.
“I preach to them about education all the time. Even though my success is not necessarily my teaching degree, in terms of where my paychecks come from, it all comes from that.”
Celebrating his successful journey in the world of pro wrestling and the news & entertainment business, George “Tyrus” Murdoch returned to Kearney Wednesday.
He graduated from UNK in 1998 but couldn’t afford the commencement gown and never received a copy of his diploma. So we… pic.twitter.com/9nKO2G2nVr
— University of Nebraska at Kearney (@UNKearney) July 13, 2023