Kyler Murray sets sights on NFL career, pushes baseball to the side

Kyler Murray’s mind is made up.

Murray, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and 2018 MLB first-round draft choice of the Oakland Athletics, announced Monday that he has decided to “firmly and fully” commit his “life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback.”

Murray, after a record-setting season as the quarterback at Oklahoma, was listed among NFL combine participants last week, but it wasn’t immediately clear which sport he was going to pursue. Until Monday. Now, Murray will turn his sights toward becoming a first-round choice in the April NFL draft.

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Murray was expected to play baseball after the 2018 football season

After transferring to Oklahoma from Texas A&M, Murray was the Sooners’ backup quarterback behind Heisman winner and future No. 1 NFL pick Baker Mayfield for the 2017 football season. But his transfer was also a boon for the OU baseball program. As an outfielder, Murray had a great year for the Sooners in 2018, batting .296 with 10 home runs and 47 runs batted in.

Murray’s sparkling athleticism and all-around skill set led the A’s to select him No. 9 overall in the 2018 MLB draft. With the help of super agent Scott Boras, Murray agreed to a lucrative contract that would allow him to play the 2018 football season at OU before reporting to spring training in 2019.

But things did not shake out the way the A’s anticipated. Murray dazzled on the gridiron for the Sooners, throwing for 3,674 yards and 37 touchdowns while rushing for 853 yards and 11 scores. He led OU to the Big 12 title and a College Football Playoff appearance, winning the Heisman Trophy in the process.

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray holds the Heisman Trophy after winning the award Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray holds the Heisman Trophy after winning the award Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Murray’s standout season put him onto the radars of NFL teams despite his diminutive stature — Murray stands just below 5-foot-10. That put his agreement with the A’s in jeopardy and ultimately swayed him toward football.

Now, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Murray will have to return a significant portion of his baseball signing bonus.

Murray’s announcement comes on the day the A’s held their first workout for pitchers and catchers. Position players are due to report to spring training on Friday. Instead, Murray will fully turn his attention to the NFL combine, which begins Feb. 26 in Indianapolis.

Murray could be a first-round NFL pick, too

The crop of quarterbacks in the 2019 NFL draft is not considered to be all that strong, especially after Justin Herbert’s decision to return to Oregon for his senior season. That sentiment has not changed in the days after the Senior Bowl.

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, who declared for the draft after a record-setting redshirt sophomore season, is generally regarded as the top prospect at the position. Opinions vary on quarterbacks like Drew Lock (Missouri), Daniel Jones (Duke), Will Grier (West Virginia) and others, leaving room for Murray to make his case to quarterback-needy NFL teams — despite the long-standing hesitancy exhibited from NFL franchises with shorter quarterbacks.

But guys like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Mayfield have pushed some NFL personnel men away from that line of thinking. Even Jon Gruden admitted he needs to reassess what he is looking for in a quarterback prospect.

“I used to think that a lot until I saw Drew Brees twice a year in Tampa, then I met Russell Wilson coming out of N.C. State, and now I’m watching this kid Murray at Oklahoma,” Gruden said last month, per Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson. “I’m putting away all the prototypes that I once had. I used to have a prototype for hand size, height, arm length, all that stuff. We’re looking for guys that can play and do a lot of different things. They come in all shapes and sizes nowadays.”

That shift in philosophy had to play a part in Murray’s decision.

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