Dallas Cowboys

Kyler Murray makes NFL draft history, goes No. 1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals

Thursday night in Nashville was the culmination of a life long journey for Kyler Murray, one that literally seems like it was put in place at birth.

He was painstakingly and deliberately groomed down this road toward quarterback infamy by his father Kevin Murray, who used his own pitfalls and disappointments as a guide.

Becoming an NFL quarterback was always the dream for the elder Murray, a former Texas A&M star whose pro football aspirations were cut short by injury and a discriminatory glass ceiling for black quarterbacks.

But even he couldn’t have fathomed this: hearing his son’s name called before anyone else at the 2019 NFL Draft.

“I can’t put it into words,” said an ecstatic Murray, dressed in a pink suit, after shaking the hand of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “It speaks for itself. This is a dream come true.”

Once considered too small and too short, Kyler Murray now sits alone atop the mountain that is Texas prep football history, while accomplishing something no athlete has done before.

As the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals one season after being picked ninth by the Oakland Athletics in the Major League Baseball Draft, Murray is the first player to ever be picked in the first round in both drafts.

Not Bo Jackson. Not Deion Sanders.

The former prep star who led Allen to three undefeated Class 6A state championships before winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma is also now arguably the most accomplished prep football player in Texas history. No one has won three state titles, the Heisman Trophy and been chosen as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

He also carried on a recent Lone Star state top-pick trend.

Murray is the third straight player from Texas to go first overall in the NFL Draft, following Texas A&M defensive end and Arlington native Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns in 2017) and fellow Oklahoma quarterback and Austin native Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns in 2018).

He is the third player from North Texas to go first overall in the last 10 years, following Georgia quarterback and Highland Park product Matt Stafford (Detroit Lions in 2009) and Garrett in 2017.

And this doesn’t even include the fact that the 5-foot-10 Murray is the first quarterback in NFL history under 6-0 ever draft in the first round.

Destiny and history combusted into sheer joy for Murray and his family Thursday night in Nashville.

“I want to be the best ever to play this game, but it’ll take a lot of hard work and dedication, and I’m ready to do that,” Murray said.

But this moment didn’t come without challenges and questions.

A five-star recruit out of his school, Murray initially committed to his father’s alma mater, Texas A&M, but left after one disappointing season. He transferred to Oklahoma and had to wait behind Mayfield for two seasons.

Always a two-sport athlete growing up — like his dad, who initially was drafted and initially played baseball in the minor leagues before switching back to football at Texas A&M — Murray became a hit in baseball at Oklahoma. The A’s liked his potential so much that they picked him ninth overall.

With no legitimate college football resume as of yet and already signed for millions in baseball, it looked like the baseball diamond was the best option for Murray, especially considering the questions about his height.

But that was before Murray lit the college football world on fire with one magical season in 2018 that had him playing the role of a human joystick. He surpassed Mayfield with video game numbers and highlights. He passed for 4,361 yards with 42 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. He also rushed for another 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns while leading the Sooners (12-2) to the Big 12 championship and winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy.

Suddenly, the dream of playing in the NFL was real again.

And the decision by the Arizona Cardinals to hire Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach made being picked No. 1 overall a legitimate possibility.

Kingsbury recruited Murray out of high school as the Texas Tech head before being fired following the 2018 season. The two have a great relationship. They share the same agent in Erik Burkhardt. And Murray is considered the perfect fit to run his spread offense in the NFL.

Kingsbury certainly proved prophetic after boasting about what a “freak” quarterback Murray was before a game between Texas Tech and Oklahoma last season and ultimately saying, “I’d take him with the first pick in the draft if I could.”

Clearly, Kingsburgy is still sold him.

“His size doesn’t (matter),” Kingsbury told the crowd Thursday night at the Cardinals’ draft party per the team’s website. “It doesn’t come into play.”

Murray made the decision to pass up baseball and focus solely on football official in February.

History was made Thursday night. But these steps were ordered at birth.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.
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