Ball-hawking cornerback by day (well, football season), Twitch-streaming Gran Turismo Sport racer by night (offseason).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting put his video game racing skills to the test on Thursday as a participant in the Red Bull Homestretch series. The second race in the now yearly series, Murphy-Bunting was joined by a few celebrity guest stars as well as six forms of professional drivers for an eSports showdown.
"It's something that I've never really done before and honestly something I've never really had that much knowledge of. But you know, given an opportunity, I was definitely going to take it because of the competitive nature in myself," Murphy-Bunting told AllBucs before the event. "And I love having fun and trying new things out."
The reigning Super Bowl champion cornerback reinvested himself into video games this offseason as he hadn't played much since beginning his college football career at Central Michigan.
When Murphy-Bunting last gripped a controller on a regular basis, video game streaming had yet to soar to the heights it's at today. Although the business was growing beforehand, the coronavirus pandemic and our transition to a more digital world took eSports to another level.
"I would have loved that back when I was a kid," Murphy-Bunting said. "I think that the digital world obviously benefits a lot of people. I think that it makes a lot of things more accessible to people ... I think that the way that technology is developing, I think that everything that they're doing is all really beneficial for everyone. Especially the gaming world."
Murphy-Bunting took part in three of four eight-lap races in a Grand Prix, unable to qualify for the finals after eighth, seventh, and tenth in his heats while contributing 11 points to Team Tsunoda's 107 total in the qualifying matches. Yuki Tsunoda, the team captain and AlphaTauri F1 driver, was the only member of his squad to make the six-car finale.
When his fate became clear in the third run, Murphy-Bunting began an act of sabotage by attempting to crash into other cars and set his team up for success. It didn't go all too well, though: "I've missed every time and then I just hit the wall," Murphy-Bunting said with a laugh.
"You know what, I had a lot of fun. As you said, I was smiling every single race," Murphy-Bunting told stream host Maude Garrett. "I learned how to get better at it throughout the time I was playing. Yeah, I'd definitely be down to do it again. I might even buy one to be completely honest with you if I can, so I can practice on my own."
Former F1, NASCAR, IndyCar and current rallycross driver Scott Speed, a member of Team Costanza, would cross the checkered line first in the final race.
With the Homestretch and Super Bowl LV in his rear-view mirror now, Murphy-Bunting has his eyes set on a return to football when Tampa Bay's mandatory mini-camp begins in June. The rising third-year pro started training lightly in March after traveling for the first month of the offseason, in addition to some gaming, but has ramped up his workouts in recent weeks in preparation for camp and the Buccaneers' run at a consecutive title this season.
"It's definitely special. You know, typically speaking, it doesn't happen that often that all 22 starters are returning," said Murphy-Bunting. "That's something that, you know, it's very beneficial for us. We all know how to play with each other and it's only going to grow that much more."