Kelly Murphy triumphantly holds the “Tough as Nails” winning belt. Photo courtesy of Kelly Murphy

WARRENSBURG — Going from not watching much television at all to being the grand-prize winner of a reality TV show is quite a transition. Just ask Kelly Murphy.

“I don’t even really watch much TV,” Murphy says, “So to be on a reality show or to even be on TV was definitely nothing I was looking to do.”

Murphy, an Indiana native, the director of military and veteran services at the University of Central Missouri and a retired marine, competed on the inaugural season of “Tough as Nails,” a game show that aired on CBS. The premise of the show is to showcase working class Americans and the daily tasks they complete.  As Murphy gained a substantial following on Instagram, the Discovery Channel reached out in hopes to cast him on what would become the CBS game show. After learning more about the premise, Murphy warmed to the idea of being on national television.

“Once I learned more about the show and what we’d be doing, it wasn’t like a normal reality show,” Murphy says. “I wanted to prove that I can be productive and bring it like I did in the marine corp.”

Murphy didn’t consider “Tough as Nails” to be just another vapid reality show. One of the most authentic moments from his time on the show was his relationship with his castmates. Murphy says he and his teammates, known on the show as Savage Crew, have kept in contact after the show despite not having any physical interactions since February.

“Savage crew, we have a group message,” Murphy says. “We message still today at least once every few days. Somebody will say ‘hey, what are you guys up to?’ or ‘thinking about you,’ or will post funny memes, but there’s always constant communication. ”

Since his time on the show, Murphy has collected his prize – $8,000 that was earned with his team, the grand prize of $200,000 and a brand new 2020 Ford F-250 – and is using his larger platform to elevate the voice for veterans.

“The governor invited me up; I was introduced on the floor and the senate,” Murphy says. “I’ve done Zoom calls. I’m giving the Veteran’s Day message to all the veterans homes and cemeteries in Missouri. It’s been a great opportunity to talk about veteran affairs. Congresswoman Hartzler came by my office to meet me; she talked to me just about being on the show. Getting to use the show to help the veteran community has been really good and to promote UCM as well.”

Murphy also has taken on a new position at UCM and hints at other projects to watch for in the future.

Murphy, who at the time of filming was the military and veteran services at the University of Central Missouri, often represented the university by wearing a UCM T-shirt on the show. Since the time of the interview, Murphy has taken on a new position at the university. Photo courtesy of Kelly Murphy.

“I’ll be moving roles in the university,” Murphy says. “I’ll be working in enrollment management and outreach. The show enabled me to connect with a lot of alumni, so I’m going to be working with UCM alumni, some recruiting for UCM. I have a few other people from Hollywood reach out to me about other projects, and I’m just waiting to see what those projects are.”

Overall, Murphy reflects positively on his experience on the show. Through his experience, he encourages others to venture out of their comfort zones.

“If somebody is apprehensive about trying something different,” Murphy says, “I would say give it a shot because you may never get the opportunity to do it again.”