Shortly after Oklahoma Sooners baseball star Kyler Murray announced he was concentrating on football, he blocked me on Twitter.
He made his announcement, and I Tweeted rhetorically how long it would be before someone said he would be a good cornerback. The dumb cliche always happens; the African-American quarterback is labeled as a guy who is not an NFL quarterback but should try out as a receiver, running back or cornerback.
He missed the irony of the tweet. Still does.
“You are the only person that said that,” Murray said to me a few hours before accepting the Davey O’Brien trophy as the nation’s top college quarterback in 2018 at the annual ceremony in downtown Fort Worth. “I don’t know how you could possibly make that up; I don’t know if you watched football or anything, or what happened this season. I have never heard that.”
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Maybe the NFL has finally arrived to the point where this dated stereotype is finally dead. So many in his previous position had to answer the questions, up to and including Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson last year at this time, before the Ravens selected him in the first round.
We should all be pulling for Kyler Murray to succeed as an NFL quarterback, for no other reason than he is the most entertaining quarterback since ... Baker Mayfield? No. Kyler Murray is more exciting than Baker. Kyler is variety against the norm. He is fun.
Murray picking football over baseball is the best decision he could make, because it is what he wants to do.
“I love both but at the end of the day I couldn’t do both so ... my love of football is definitely up there,” Murray told myself and three other reporters on Monday in his first comments since he made the decision to formally pass on the Oakland A’s and concentrate on football, and the NFL Draft.
“I’ve always wanted to do this. If I didn’t, you all would not have seen me this season (at Oklahoma). I would have played baseball. ... It wasn’t looking good as far as the NFL side of things until this past season and everyone saw what I really was capable of. After the season, projections, and how the NFL felt about it, and I felt like I could play in the league. I didn’t know how the NFL felt about me, on top of being a shorter guy who plays quarterback.”
THE SHORT ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
When asked how tall he is, he said, “I don’t measure myself when I wake up.”
Between now and the NFL Draft all of the talk about Murray will be about his height, or lack thereof. He knows it.
When he attends the NFL Combine in Indianapolis next week, where he said he has not made a decision as to what specifically he will do, he said he will go through the measurements and then we will know.
“There’s never been a 5-foot-10 quarterback drafted in the first round,” he said. “I’m already projected to be in the first round. That’s crazy to me that I’m already projected to be that high.”
Here is what you need to know: This is not a tall kid. And we have to remember this: Kyler Murray is a young man, who is a kid. By NFL standards, he’s a short one.
I am 6-feet tall, and he’s not as tall (or as stunningly handsome) as I am. Say he is 5-foot-10. If that makes him happy, who cares?
“I feel like it doesn’t matter how big you are,” he said.
The NFL typically doesn’t agree.
The quarterback he reminds me of is Michael Vick; both guys had exceptional feet, quickness and could outrun shooting stars. They had powerful arms. Murray looks to be slightly more accurate than Vick, who was listed as 6-foot.
The odds are not in Murray’s favor, but the way the NFL offenses continually evolve to the college version, at a minimum it will be fun to watch him try.
PASSING ON BASEBALL IS THE RIGHT CALL
The common counter to Murray’s decision is that he made a stupid call picking a sport where the average lifespan is less than four years.
This criticism assumes Murray was going to make it to the big leagues. At least in the NFL he makes it directly to the top level, whereas in baseball he likely was going to have to wait for a few years.
I talked to a Division I head baseball coach about Murray’s chances as a Major League ballplayer, and he thought he was talented, raw, and that the grind of minor league baseball might get to him.
People forget, or don’t know, Murray’s uncle Calvin was twice selected in the first round of the MLB draft, in 1989 and ‘92. Murray was a great defensive player who could not hit.
Desperate to have a center fielder who knew what he was doing, Rangers’ GM John Hart purchased Murray’s contract in 2002. He appeared in 37 games that season, and batted .169.
Teams kept giving Calvin looks because he was a brilliant defensive player, was scary fast, and could run down anything hit in the gaps, or over his head. In five seasons with three teams, he was a career .231 hitter with 22 stolen bases, and he was thrown out 11 times. His on base percentage was .315.
He was a big league defensive player and a minor league hitter. That happens a lot.
“He’s been there and done it; he told me a lot about the process and how it would be and how it’s changed,” he said. “He was happy with whatever I was happy with.”
Ultimately, that is what matters and why Kyler Murray made the best decision.