Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who nearly led Oklahoma to a comeback victory against Alabama in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, now faces a decision far tougher than which receiver to throw to: How does he want to become a star?
Murray was taken with the No. 9 pick of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics in the summer. Through the fall and into the winter, it was thought Murray was going to follow the path of his father and pick up a glove instead of pads and pursue baseball.
But an outstanding redshirt junior season with the Sooners led Murray to a Heisman Trophy and a chance at the National Championship. He threw for 4,361 passing yards and 42 touchdowns for Oklahoma. And though his loss in the semifinal against the Crimson Tide wasn’t ideal, there is immense buzz around him with about five months to go until the 2019 NFL Draft.
Murray was asked after the game against Alabama about whether he'd thought about making a decision between playing for the Athletics or pursuing an NFL gig.
“I really haven't thought about it right now,” he said, according to ESPN.
While he hasn't made his mind up yet, Murray at least appears to be hedging his bets. The New York Post reported he plans on participating in spring training come February and has also accepted the Athletics’ $4.6 million signing bonus.
“He’s in a great situation. I mean, the guy is already the ninth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, and I think he’ll probably be somewhere around the same spot if he chooses to go football-wise,” Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said before Saturday’s game. “We just had a guy go first overall the year before [Baker Mayfield], and I think this guy is that kind of impact player and certainly a rare athlete, one of those that you very well may go through the rest of your career coaching and never have one like that again. I mean, he’s that unique."
Riley added: “He’s either going to be a Major League Baseball star or he’s going to be a Pro Bowler. He just needs to decide which one. Maybe both.”
Where could Murray go if he chose football? ESPN’s NFL Draft insider Todd McShay told The Oklahoman on Saturday that Murray would be high up on most teams’ draft boards.
“He'd be the first or second quarterback in my opinion," McShay said. "I would draft him in the first round if I was a team that knew how to use him. NFL offenses are going in the direction of what Oklahoma is doing."
MLB scouts are reportedly skeptical Murray will stay with Oakland because of the chance for him to become a huge star -- with a huge payday -- quickly in the NFL. Murray likely won't even see the majors for at least two or three years -- and then would only make the MLB minimum salary for his first several seasons -- if he develops in the way the organization hopes.
“I love him,” a baseball scout told Yahoo Sports. “He can be a star. Plus speed, good raw power, legitimate center fielder. But he’s so far behind the curve because of football, it’s going to take longer for him to develop. And I really wonder if the football bug is too strong for him to say no.”
Pitchers and catchers begin to report to spring training on Feb. 12 and 13. The NFL Scouting Combine begins Feb. 26.