UCM’s Kelly Murphy wins “Tough as Nails”


John Kennedy

Kelly Murphy, UCM military and veterans services director, won the championship title on the first season of the CBS show “Tough as Nails.” Photo by John Kennedy

By Clarissa Nivens, University of Central Missouri

Kelly Murphy,  UCM military and veterans services director, won the championship title on the first season of the CBS show “Tough as Nails.” The television program aims to celebrate the attributes of Americans who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty at work. Kelly Murphy, also known as “Murph,” is a former marine who served for 22 years. It has been eight years since his retirement, but he saw the show as an opportunity to test his abilities.

“The reason I did the show was to prove to myself that I could still bring it like I did in the military,” Murphy said.

He said the show was a perfect competition for him because of how similar it was to his military experiences. Just as soldiers move from one small unit to another, where there is little time to get to know people and their capabilities, Murphy had a short amount of time to get to know his teammates on The Savage Crew and accomplish their team goals on the show. Murphy used his leadership skills to get by and gained lifelong friends by the end of the season. To this day, he still messages his crew weekly.

My goal is to be a better version tomorrow than what I am today. Season 1, Episode 2”

— Kelly Murphy

“I’m very proud to be part of the movement,” Professional welder and teammate, Linnett Key, said. “I loved the people that I worked with, and we became family.”

Murphy said his favorite episode was season 1, episode 6: “Trash Day.” After his team had already lost four previous challenges, their team made a big turn around in the challenge of moving boxes and furniture into a truck to ultimately win.

“The energy and emotion were phenomenal,” Murphy said. “It’s better than my individual win to watch my teammates win.”

Murphy earned special recognition once “Tough as Nails” aired. He met Governor Parson and was introduced on the Senate’s floor in the Missouri House. He said he thinks what he did was good for the show and a great way to advertise UCM. Throughout the season, viewers can see him proudly wearing a UCM shirt as he competes in the challenges.

“I think Kelly brought a lot of publicity and new people to UCM,” Audrey Murphy, Kelly Murphy’s eldest daughter who has been attending UCM for three years, said.

“Tough As Nails” gave Murphy confidence and an entire crew lasting friendships.

“It was a good experience, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Murphy said.

This story was originally published on Muleskinner on December 4, 2020.