This week the three Heisman Trophy finalists were announced, and to no one’s surprise, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray made the list. The Sooners’ red shirt junior led his team to a 12-1 record, a Big 12 conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2018. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards this season with 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He has also rushed for nearly 900 yards with an additional 11 touchdowns on the ground. Murray has as good of stats as any player in the country, and if he ends up winning the prestigious award, it will be well deserved.
But it also might be the last football award he earns.
Murray has been a dual-sport athlete his entire life. He loves playing football, of that we all know, but his elite athleticism has also made him a great baseball player. Earlier this year, Murray was drafted No. 9 overall by the Oakland Athletics. He agreed to a deal with the A’s that included a $4.66 million signing bonus — a number he would have to be a first round pick to obtain in the NFL.
Here’s an except from Murray’s MLB scouting report.
“Though he continues to juggle two sports and has lost a lot of at-bats while doing so, Murray has made impressive adjustments at the plate. He’s making better contact and no longer is easy prey for breaking balls, doing a better job of recognizing them and not chasing them off the plate. He has the plus-plus speed to create havoc on the bases and the bat speed and strength to produce average power.”
The reason for such a signing bonus is because Major League Baseball — the Oakland A’s specifically — know how good this kid is at all sports and knew that the NFL would be real possibility for him. Did they think Murray would have this kind of success? Who knows, but the fact is that he did.
As it stands, Murray is standing firm on the commitment he made earlier this year when he said that he will be giving up football after the 2018 season, whatever the result, and will transition his professional career to baseball.
“I feel like I can play in the NFL,” Murray said per MLB.com. “But as far as giving [football] up, as of now that’s the plan.”
However, his coach isn’t so sure that Murray is a 100 percent lock to remain firm in that decision.
“It’ll be an interesting question, what he and his family decide to do,” Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said. “… There’s different dynamics with it. If he plays QB if he chooses the football route, different from Bo, Deion. But he’s so athletically gifted in transitioning between the two (sports).”
If there’s one thing for sure, Kyler Murray has the arm. It’s crazy how a guy with his measureables, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, can sling the ball that far with that kind of speed, but he does. That’s what makes him so coveted as a football and baseball player.
But that isn’t the only thing.
Murray is also an exceptional athlete with his legs. He plays outfield in baseball, and that’s because he can cover so much ground so quickly. His range gives him the potential to be one of the best fielders in the majors.
But it also gives him a chance to be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks at the NFL level. We’re seeing more and more the NFL trying to adapt to college football’s game, due to that being the types of players that are being sent their way. Murray, minus the height, is basically the prototype of a guy who can throw and pass exactly the way you’d like.
But the reason why guys of Murray’s size don’t exist much in the NFL is the same reason why Murray likely chose baseball initially.
“The problem is, in football, you see the consequence of his great athletic skill applied to a sport,” Scott Boras, the baseball agent who represents Murray, said. “For those of us who know baseball, the real sport where he’ll be a star lies ahead.”
You get beat up in football — a lot. You really don’t in baseball. The type of sport baseball is allows for talented players to have, not only lengthy, but lucrative careers.
In baseball, all of their contracts are fully guaranteed. That used to be a big advantage over football. But now, as we’ve seen with Kirk Cousins’s recent deal, quarterback contracts are virtually becoming fully guaranteed, too. If Murray becomes one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, he can make the same ceiling of money he would in baseball.
But at what cost? Is that risk worth it?
As shown in the few clips above, Murray has the arm talent and the leg speed to potentially dominate at the NFL level. If Lamar Jackson was a first round pick in 2018 with the same vision of success in mind, perhaps Murray can be, too.
“He would be a first-round pick if he committed and promised he was going to play football,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.
Especially in this weak quarterback class, there is a path for Murray to be a first round pick, even as a quarterback who is 5-foot-10, well below what many teams would have as their threshold for selecting a quarterback.
For now, Murray is sticking with baseball as his decision. But if he wins the Heisman Trophy and maybe even a National Championship, perhaps it won’t be the last football award Kyler Murray wins.
Perhaps he’ll just be getting started.