Mike Murburg ’77 was 17 when he arrived at Princeton, “naïve and full of testosterone,” but he worked his way through a challenging schedule as a student-athlete, which prepared him for an atypical path after college.
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Brett Tomlinson: When Mike Murburg, Class of ’77, came to record a PAW Tracks interview at Reunions last year, he gave a frank assessment of his time at Princeton.
Mike Murburg: I was 17 when I arrived here — naïve and full of testosterone.
I managed to get a degree in history. I did well enough to graduate. You know, like most males, a lot of males, don’t come into their own until they’re a little later on in life. I mean the best thing that would have happened to me was, you know, taken a year off beforehand, but, you know, I managed to get my stuff together and go to law school, graduate with honors, and, you know, go on with life. But, you know, coming back here, you know, I see myself now in a thousand different faces and a thousand different colors and a thousand different ages.
BT: Outside the classroom, Murburg’s experience was defined by athletics. He wrestled for two years and briefly threw the discus for the track and field team. He also decided to go out for football. So we asked him, how was Princeton football back then?
MM: It sucked. [laughs] Sorry, but it did.
BT: It wasn’t for lack of coaching.
MM: You know, the guys later went on to coach, you know, professional football teams. Coach [John] Brunner was our offensive coordinator. He went on to be the offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions. John Petercuskie ended up being the defensive coach for the Cleveland Browns. Ron Blackledge was the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then Tom Olivadotti — it was his first year as a coach, coaching varsity ball. We always used to call him Zero or Coach O. He was kind of friendly with us all, but he eventually became [the defensive] coordinator for the Miami Dolphins.
So we were gifted with a wonderful, wonderful coaching staff, sub-coaching staff, but I have no idea, you know, why we didn’t do better. Obviously they didn’t play me enough. Just kidding. They didn’t play me at all.
BT: Juggling classes with a multi-sport schedule took its toll.
MM: It was tough. I mean, I remember coming, you know, coming back up from football practice, you know, one afternoon having volunteered to do, you know, some work as a subject in the psychology lab, and turning the lights out. The next thing I knew I was waking up snoring during the test. I mean it was tough to balance physical exhaustion and then mental acumen with productivity. It was very difficult. I would advise actually against it. The academic opportunities here are so — have such width and breath that if one doesn’t take advantage of those they’re losing part of what the University has to offer. We all have our own paths though. That’s kind of how I ended up here talking to you today. I have taken the path less traveled, that’s for damn sure.
BT: Since graduation, Murburg has taught high school, tended bar, completed law school, worked as a prosecutor, and raised two kids. He also competed on a reality TV show and has developed a keen interest in making contact with extraterrestrial beings.
Through all that, his affection for Princeton has remained as strong as ever.
MM: Princeton provides you with a very, very safe and wonderful academic environment and university environment. It’s good to come back. I miss the university town. You don’t have this kind of, you know, concentration of highly intelligent, highly sentient and socialized beings anywhere else on the planet save for a few other places.
It’s just a remarkable experience to come on back, to see what great things they’ve done with the University. It’s amazing that you make friends with classmates and school mates later on in life and find out there’s far more commonalities that you have with them later on in life than you ever would have imagined as a neophyte undergraduate. If you haven’t made it back, you really should.
BT: Our thanks to Mike Murburg for sharing his story. Brett Tomlinson produced this episode. The music is licensed from FirstCom Music.