NEW YORK — Kyler Murray is, well, curious.
Can Oklahoma’s dynamic quarterback play professional baseball … and professional football? In the Major Leagues and the National Football League?
It’s probably little more than the big dreams of a little kid. And yet, here sits Murray, living out one of his childhood dreams by standing alongside two other finalists for the 84th Heisman Trophy, which will go to either Murray Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa at a 7 p.m. ceremony at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square.
Murray dreamed it, and now it’s here.
Why not dream about being the next Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson?
“I would love to do that,” Murray said Friday at Freedom Hall on the seventh floor of the New York Stock Exchange before the Heisman finalists rang the closing bell on another dark day on Wall Street. “I’ve always been a guy with many options. I try and keep ‘em open as long as possible. Yeah, if that was possible, I’d definitely be open to it.”
After winning the Heisman Trophy for Auburn in 1985, Jackson was a Raiders running back in the late-1980s while he also was an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, making both the Pro Bowl and the MLB All-Star Game. Sanders was a cornerback when he rode in a helicopter between Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons games in the early 1990s.
Would such a thing even be possible for a quarterback?
Quarterbacks are the leaders of their football team, required to watch more film than players at other positions and know the responsibilities of every player on the offense and be a coach on the field. Could Murray devote that kind of time to football and still see progress in his career on the baseball diamond?
“I think if you’ve done it for as long as I have,” he said. “Obviously, at … the next level, it’s gonna be way more difficult. But I would love to do it, yeah.”
Murray might be a day away from becoming Oklahoma’s seventh Heisman Trophy winner. His career, like a meteor, has burned so bright so fast we almost missed it — three months of flash and now a big bang. If Murray wins the Heisman, the Oklahoma athletic department will have to reconsider where it expected to erect the statue of last year’s winner, Baker Mayfield.
At some point, Mayfield will return to Norman for a rip-roaring, old-fashioned statue unveiling, like the others before him did.
But when would Murray have time for such frivolity if he’s trying to get a hit off Clayton Kershaw and evading Aaron Donald?
“I don’t even know if it’s possible, like I said,” Murray said. “Nobody professionally has brought that to my attention. That’s just something that’s been talked about. I mean, I’m confident in myself. Baseball’s a game of failure, so I think that’d be really tough to do, flipping back and forth. In football, there’s a bunch of grown men playing in the NFL. It’d be a great challenge, but I would definitely be up for it.”
Murray said he hasn’t even begun the pre-process of entering the NFL Draft. When scouts come calling, he’ll have to communicate with coach Lincoln Riley and his baseball agent, Scott Boras, about exploring his draft stock. He surely wouldn’t do it as a mini-camp free agent. Not when there’s big money to be made.
It’s likely that NFL teams are eager to talk with him to see how married to baseball he really is — especially if football can provide an entirely different (and likely larger) revenue stream. The NFL does tend to pay its quarterbacks at the top of the professional athlete marketplace.
Murray is already quite good at football. He could be one sleep away from winning the Heisman. He’s already broken some of Mayfield’s incredible records set just last season. And Thursday he won the Associated Press national player of the year award.
But imagine how much better he could be if he, well, gave up baseball. Sam Bradford was an above-average college prospect, but when he stopped wasting time goofing around with basketball and golf, he became a record-setting quarterback, a Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 overall draft pick.
“I think that’s just something you assume, that if I was to stop and play baseball and just focus on baseball, obviously,” Murray said. “Yeah, my baseball coaches have told me, ‘Yeah, you’re this good already but you’d be even better if you just sat down and focused on baseball.’ I think that’d be vice versa for football. But at the same time, for me, it’s all reps. The more reps I get, the better I get.”
Murray credited former OU baseball coach Pete Hughes and former football coach Bob Stoops, as well as current coaches Skip Johnson and Lincoln Riley, for fostering his ability to excel at both sports.
“First of all, I have great people around me,” he said. “I went to college to play both, but Oklahoma allowed me to do both. … That’s where it all starts. I wouldn’t even be in the situation I am if they didn’t allow me to do both. I think it’s just because I’ve done both my whole life, so it’s not weird to me. It’s something I’ve been doing.”
Asked which he prefers, which is more fun, Murray said “I don’t have an answer for you.”
But asked if smashing records and building a legacy and winning a championship and flying home with a Heisman would make it easier or harder to walk away from football, he found a poignant response deep within.
“It’s gonna be hard in general,” he said. “But I couldn’t leave football with a terrible taste in my mouth after my freshman year (at Texas A&M). Like I said, I’ve loved this game my whole life; I’ve played it my whole life. So not being successful my freshman year and then having to sit these past two years, I couldn’t go out like that.
“This year, it’d make it a little easier knowing I did what I wanted to do and then get out of there.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.