Football or baseball, Kyler Murray will ultimately choose his own path

Tim BrownMLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

Kyler Murray, the first-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in June and the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in December, on Monday declared for the NFL draft, a procedural decision that also hinted at his preference for football over baseball, according to those close to the two-sport athlete.

Murray also is 21 years old. So while today he views himself a football player, and while today his parents are said to have come in on the side of football, and while today his near future looks like NFL scouting combine (or private workouts) and NFL draft (and perhaps not as much of MLB spring training, if any), preferences, at 21, are shifty constructs.

Even so, perhaps it is time for the adults – the other adults – to leave the room.

Kyler Murray is a grown man, and if now you must make a crack about NFL quarterback height requirements, have at it. He has spent weeks navigating a grossly unfair system, one that limits where he can go and for how much, and in April will be drafted into another one. He has people – agents, guardians, confidantes, friends, coaches, accountants – to help guide him, a special case serving in some ways as a test case, after which he is likely to learn the games are still the games and the rules are not his to make. They will be his to live with.

Murray arrives at his decision at a time when the greater transgression is not the opinion but the absence of an opinion, so the football people will tell him what a fine choice he made, and the baseball people will slap their foreheads, and the money people will count it out to the last nickel, and the fact is nobody has an idea what this will look like in a year, in five, in 10. Not them. Not Kyler. Not the guy manning the height station at the NFL combine. Not the guy who sees Rickey Henderson in everything Kyler Murray is and could be.

Kyler Murray will test his options in the NFL draft, but the possibility he plays baseball is not closed. (AP)
Kyler Murray will test his options in the NFL draft, but the possibility he plays baseball is not closed. (AP)

What Murray must know is the only way this absolutely does not work is to try to keep it all alive, to mix football quarterbacking with baseball outfielding and so attempt to cover himself in the case of failure. One day, and declaring for the draft does not make this day that day, the decision will have to come, and he’ll know it before anybody else does. Maybe it’ll be what makes him wealthiest, or could. Maybe it’ll be what he is best at, in his estimation. Maybe it’ll be the lifestyle, an NFL huddle (or bench) against a bus somewhere between three at-bats here and four at-bats there. Maybe it’ll be the arena that brings him the most joy, that’s the most fun, that allows him to love every day more than the last.

Maybe, when that day comes, being a big-league fourth outfielder sounds better to him than being a starting quarterback, or being a second-string quarterback sounds better than being an All-Star outfielder. However it goes. Or, why not, a Super Bowl quarterback sounds better than any of it.

Remember when what you chose today and for forever was the thing that most inspired you? And, because it inspired you, you knew – just knew – you could be great at it? No matter how it played out, you couldn’t regret that choice today.

No, if the decision hasn’t already been made, it’ll come to him while dragging his pads from a practice field somewhere. Or in a batting cage, after his thousandth swing. Or two thousandth. Three thousandth. Somewhere, but probably not in a room surrounded by people in suits and polo shirts, holding calculators, protecting their own skins in his game.

Spring training begins in about a month, in Arizona. The combine opens a couple weeks later, in Indiana. There will be decisions to be made before then, and again in the two months leading to the draft, and plenty – perhaps over a year or two or more – after that. He does not have to choose the rest of his life today, not based on his mid-day Tweet: “I have declared for the NFL Draft.” He merely has to prepare himself for the decision. Whose money he will accept. Whose uniform he will wear. What journey he will honor.

Mostly, though, what feels right to him. What makes him happiest.

Because that’s where he’ll be best.

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