They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. For Kevin and Kyler Murray, that saying rings true in many ways.
Nearly 40 years ago, a student athlete named Kevin Murray was on his way to being a star in two sports at the collegiate level. In high school, Murray was an All-State quarterback for North Dallas High School, and he was named Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex Offensive Player of the Year his senior season. He also happened to be a center fielder for the North Dallas baseball team.
Coming out of high school, Murray was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 11th round of the 1982 MLB Draft. Murray played one season for the Brewers’ Pikeville rookie-league team in the Appalachian League after signing a $35,000 deal via signing bonus. Murray played in 41 games for the rookie-league team, batting .171, before heading home for Dallas just 10 weeks into the season.
“My arm just wasn’t used to baseball,” Murray said. “I almost ruined my elbow. I got some tendinitis in there, and it still hurts a little bit [to this day].”
After quitting baseball, Murray arrived at Texas A&M in the fall of 1983 to try to play football again. But the Brewers didn’t like watching the guy they paid $35,000 dollars to take that money and not use his athletic talents for their team — and not even in their sport. So they took this case to court.
The Brewers filed suit to prevent Murray from playing for the Aggies, arguing a breach of contract using reneging as their claim — basically saying Murray went back on his promise to them to fulfill the signing bonus he was signing for. Murray’s defense was that he believed his obligation to the Brewers was only for one year, and that was the amount of time he let pass before playing football again. The Brewers, on the other hand, said that the deal Murray was signing gave them the right to renew a contract between the two once a year (following each season) for the next six years, as was typically the timeline for rookies jumping into professional baseball.
In court, an executive for the Brewers said under oath that a booster for Texas A&M gifted Murray impermissible benefits such as a car and other incentives to leave baseball and play football for them. Murray denied these allegations under oath.
But thanks to a ruling on the injunction in his favor, Murray was able to continue to play football for the Aggies.
“The judge ruled Murray breached his contract with the Brewers and in so doing was no longer bound by a contract clause that forbade him to play football. She also ruled the contract amounted to involuntary servitude, prohibited by the 13th Amendment.”
In his first season as the Aggies’ quarterback, he was named the Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year, as well as second-team all-conference. He finished the year as the SWC’s total offense leader, averaging 165 yards per game and was the conference leader with 14 touchdown passes. In total, he passed for 1,544 yards and 14 touchdowns. After a career that included incredible accomplishments amidst a number of injuries, Murray’s senior season was special, one in which he broke most of Texas A&M’s passing records and became the Southwest Conference’s all-time touchdown leader. He finished his Aggie career 25-6-1 as a starter, making him the winningest quarterback in Aggie history, at the time.
But despite being one of the most intriguing players in the 1987 NFL Draft, Murray went undrafted. Some argued that it was due to his injury history, but Lynn Amedee, A&M’s offensive coordinator during Murray’s time there, said it was more than just injuries.
”These guys spent all our time working him out,” Amedee said. ”They tell us he’s going to project as a second or fourth-rounder, and then they blackball him.”
“Somebody blackballed him, and I’m going to find out why.”
Murray was shorter for the quarterback position at just 6-foot-1, and he had an injury history that was troubling, but teams knew all that when they were telling Murray’s camp he was going to be a mid-round pick, and yet he wasn’t. Perhaps the blackballing of Murray came from teams not wanting to take the risk on a guy who had already quit one sport for another. Perhaps the Brewers called every NFL owner they could to get the last laugh.
“It has a culture shock,” Murray said. “I wasn’t mature enough to deal with it at that point in my life,” on why he left baseball the way he did.
That background brings us to today, where Kevin Murray’s son Kyler is in a similar boat. It’s not the same exact situation with legal money involved (yet), but the blackballing part of his father’s story could potentially live in the air of his Heisman trophy-winning son, especially due to information as of late.
Going back to last year, after being drafted in the first round by the Oakland A’s, Kyler Murray’s plan was always to play one year of college football as a starting quarterback — something he waited a long time to do — and then when the 2018 college football season ran its course, regardless of the result, that he would hang up his football cleats and go play baseball.
But after a final season in which Murray threw for 4,300 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while also rushing for 1,000 yards and recording 12 more touchdowns on the ground, winning a Big 12 Championship, playing in the College Football Playoff and winning the Heisman Trophy, Murray’s professional sports decision is much more open-ended than it seemed to be a few months ago.
Murray’s timeline of waffling started back before the season when he made a “firm” commitment to baseball. Then, as his accolades mounted up during football season, his answers to questions about his future became more open ended. When he officially declared for the NFL Draft before the deadline in January, some thought the decision was over and that meant he had chosen football. But even now that is not the case, as was evident by a recent interview Murray had with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
“Wish I could play both,” Murray said. “I know that’s highly, highly, highly, unlikely, but it’s not an easy decision. I’ve been playing both my whole life.”
Though Murray said he would come to a decision “soon,” he sounded about as unsure as you could from a person in that situation. That’s likely because he isn’t sure yet. That, in a human aspect, is understandable. But to an NFL team, Murray’s interview with Florio was likely the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. Florio asked if Murray had already made up his mind and was just waiting to announce and Murray responded with, “I wouldn’t say that,” indicating that here in February Murray is still not 100 percent certain on the path he’s going to choose.
To an NFL team thinking of selecting him in Round 1, or even selecting him at all, that must be terrifying.
Florio asked Murray whether or not he would potentially wait to see where he is drafted this April in the NFL Draft, both in where he ends up getting selected (first round, second round, etc.) and also to which organization selects him, before choosing between football and baseball. Murray sort of said “no,” but really didn’t answer the question more than anything else. The fact that he left such a question unanswered is where his father’s past of being allegedly blackballed could come into the mix.
You can watch the full interview above, but Murray looked about as uncomfortable and sounded about as uncertain as he could be, at this point in the process. He was slow to answers a handful of Florio’s tough questions — good on Florio — and that, in and of itself, is a hint. Murray was quicker to answer questions about how he thinks he could play both football and baseball, citing that he would have to be drafted by the Raiders to also play for the A’s, but he wasn’t so quick to answer other questions about his future.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Murray went on the Dan Patrick Show after his time with Florio and somehow handled that even worse than he did the PFT interview.
Kyler Murray is not acing this. pic.twitter.com/FrdhxXgwyF
— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) February 1, 2019
Murray was asked if he was going to the NFL Combine, to which he responded with “I don’t know.” He then was asked if he was going to have a Pro Day, to which he sat silently as Patrick stared at him, baffled that Murray would do the interview without preparing himself to answer these questions. Murray even responded to the pro day question by saying, “that would imply that I was going to play football.”
As the interview went on, you could see Murray looking off camera at his father, almost as if he was hoping to be told what to say, or even better for him, be given the green light to just get up and walk out of the interview. And as if that wasn’t strange enough, Murray said that he thought he was “getting pretty good at answering these questions.” If by that he meant having no answer at all during Super Bowl week, then he was right.
So even if Murray makes a decision “soon,” as stated, will it really ease the minds of those in the NFL who could potentially be making the decision to draft him?
Teams take risks on players in the draft all the time. Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway, for example, was picked in the fourth round last year after multiple suspensions at Florida. Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, in another example, was picked in the fifth round after a heart condition made teams unsure of his long-term future in the game. Taking risks on long-term and short-term guys isn’t uncommon, but what would be uncommon is taking them in the first round.
If Murray were to be a Day 3 pick due to the risk of his own uncertainty, why would he choose football over baseball where he was a first round pick in the MLB, for an organization that he said has treated him as well as he could have imagined during this process? And if NFL teams are thinking that, why would they spend a draft pick on him at all?
Kyler Murray has held the power of both sports in his own hands his entire life, as did his father. But now it seems to be out of his control. For baseball, it isn’t, as it was reported that the Oakland A’s and Major League Baseball are trying to give him even more money to play their sport. For football, he might be flying too close to the sun, and could be burning more bridges with his uncertainty than his season built with his accomplishments.
His father never ended up playing the game of football professionally in the manner in which he dreamed of when he gave up baseball. The magnitude of his son’s career will likely be different, but perhaps holding both worlds of baseball and football in his hands for so long will end up hurting him when it comes to draft day.
“Dad’s always told me it’s best to have options,” Kyler said. “We’ve lived by that for my whole life.”
But maybe it’s not.
Maybe holding those options as long as he has will end up taking away the one Murray would say he really wanted when it is all said and done.
Only time will tell for football, baseball, the NFL Draft and Kyler Murray.