Kyler Murray says he will play football in 2018.
Murray, a two-sport star at Oklahoma who most expect to succeed Baker Mayfield as the starting quarterback for the Sooners this fall, was selected No. 9 overall by the Oakland Athletics in the MLB draft on Monday night.
The value for that pick in the draft: $4,761,500. Guaranteed.
Murray plans to play football for Oklahoma in 2018
In a conference call Monday night, Murray told reporters he plans to play football for the Sooners in 2018. That definitely led to a big sigh of relief for the folks back in Norman who have long expected Murray to take the reins from Mayfield, who won the Heisman Trophy last fall before being selected No. 1 in the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Murray, Mayfield’s backup in 2017, competed with Austin Kendall for the starting job while starring on the baseball field throughout the spring. In 2017, Murray completed 18-of-21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 142 yards. He started against West Virginia after Mayfield was disciplined for his actions against Kansas and broke off a 66-yard run on the first play of the game.
Murray, a highly-touted recruit out of Allen, Texas, started his career at Texas A&M before transferring to OU. As a true freshman in 2015 for the Aggies, Murray made three starts and threw for 686 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 59.5 percent of his passes. He added 335 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley chimed in with a statement Tuesday afternoon echoing that Murray intends to play football in 2018.
“As Kyler and I discussed prior to the Major League Baseball Draft, we’re excited to have him here with us for this upcoming football season,” Riley said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back around our team this summer and he’s excited to get into workouts and help us continue to pursue another championship. We’re also equally excited for his opportunity with Major League Baseball and being the ninth pick in the draft. It’s a great honor for him and he’s going to have some great options going forward.”
He can sign the MLB contract and still play football this fall
Murray will likely follow a path we’ve seen taken a few times before, most notably by Russell Wilson.
NCAA rules allow athletes to play professional baseball while maintaining their amateur status in another sport. In Murray’s case, he’d remain an amateur in football. All of that is contingent upon Murray’s compensation and interactions with an agent being related to baseball solely. And in order to stay eligible, he cannot sign any endorsement deals.
Throughout the spring, OU head coach Lincoln Riley has been steadfast in his belief that he would have Murray available at quarterback in 2018. Despite the risk of injury, it looks like Murray will turn his coach’s words true.
Murray was expected to be drafted — but not this high
In 51 games, Murray, a slugging center fielder, hit .296 with 10 home runs and 47 runs batted while stealing 10 bases for the Sooners, who were eliminated Monday by Mississippi State in the Tallahassee Regional of the College World Series.
With his success in baseball, his football coaches anticipated Murray would be drafted — but not this high. However, the A’s said Murray’s tools on the baseball field were too good to pass up. The club is OK with him playing football, too.
Eric Kubota, the A’s director of scouting, said that Murray was too “unique a talent” to pass up, so the A’s have no problem with him missing baseball this summer, playing football in the fall and reporting to Oakland’s minor-league complex next spring.
“The risk of the football, in our opinion, was outweighed by the upside on the baseball field,” Kubota said. “We’re totally on board with his desire to play quarterback at Oklahoma and frankly, we’re kind of excited to be Oklahoma fans for 12 games. That’s not easy for a Cal guy to say.”
Murray has long been on the radar of MLB clubs. He was a coveted prospect in both sports, but ended up taking his name out of the MLB draft back in 2015 when he was a high school senior in order to play both football and baseball at Texas A&M.
For a big chunk of the baseball season, Murray juggled both sports
Murray had a very busy spring.
For example, on one April weekend, Murray practiced with the football team on a Friday morning before driving a few hours south from Norman to Fort Worth for the baseball team’s series against TCU. In the first game of the series, he belted two home runs and drove in four runs in an 8-5 win. Later that night, Murray was on a flight back to Norman for a football scrimmage. After the Saturday morning scrimmage, Murray was then in the lineup for the baseball team that afternoon.
— Oklahoma Baseball (@OU_Baseball) April 7, 2018
Murray’s future could be brighter in baseball
At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Murray does not have the size of the average NFL quarterback, leading most to believe it would be in his best interests to focus on a career as a professional baseball player. But Mayfield, Murray’s Oklahoma predecessor, is an obvious example of a smaller quarterback attracting NFL teams.
Murray is probably going to have to choose one sport over the other eventually. If he has a huge year at quarterback for Oklahoma, it’s a decision that will draw even more scrutiny considering he would have one more year of football eligibility remaining in 2019.
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