The 2019 season was a trial by fire for Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting.
A second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan, Murphy-Bunting quickly earned a starting job for the Bucs, appearing in all 16 games as a rookie, starting 10 of them.
He overcame the usual rookie mistakes to finish the season strong, leading the team with three interceptions, including a 70-yard pick-six to seal a road victory against the Detroit Lions. Murphy-Bunting's performance earned him NFL All-Rookie honors.
Just after he was drafted, Sean Bunting became Sean Murphy-Bunting. The NFL Scouting Combine standout made the change to honor his mother and the sacrifices she made for him and his brothers growing up.
Heading into his second NFL season, Murphy-Bunting will be making another change to his football jersey, switching from the No. 26 he wore last season to No. 23.
Just like last time, this one's all about family, too.
"As far as me, personally, 23 symbolizes a lot for me," Murphy-Bunting said via video conference call Wednesday. "I have five brothers. I have two younger brothers, and three older brothers. So it's cool for me, just to have that No. 23 . . . because that's kind of my thing to them."
Part of a Tampa Bay secondary loaded with young talent, Murphy-Bunting's development last season helped Tampa Bay improve from one of the league's worst defenses to a top-10 unit over the final six weeks of the season. Heading into his second season under Todd Bowles, one of the NFL's best defensive coordinators, Murphy-Bunting and his fellow ball-hawks on the back end of Tampa Bay's defense are primed to make another huge step in the right direction in 2020.
Every step of the way, Murphy-Bunting will continue to be playing for something bigger than himself, bigger than the game.
"At the end of the day, I play for my family, and I play for the name on the front of my jersey," Murphy-Bunting said. "I rarely do things for myself, to be honest with you. 23 is definitely a number that I've always wanted. I wanted it last year, obviously didn't get it, but I've got it now, and I don't really plan to ever stop wearing that number. "
One of the most promising players at his position in the entire NFL, Murphy-Bunting appears to be just getting started, and he's sure to make plenty of people proud along the way.