Person of Interest: Dual-sport phenom Kyler Murray

MLB analyst David Samson joins the Jeff Blair Show shocked to see what kind of social media circus A’s prospect Kyler Murray has caused with his decision to declare for the NFL Draft.

On Monday, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray announced his decision to enter this year’s NFL Draft.

This seems perfectly normal, especially because he’s projected to go in the first round of the draft, but Murray’s situation isn’t normal.

That’s because just about seven months ago, Murray was selected in the first round of the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Oakland Athletics.

A two-sport star, Murray could potentially become the first man drafted in the first round of both the NFL and MLB drafts.

Here’s a little more on the athletic prodigy who’s making headlines everywhere you look.

Age: 21
Sports: Football, baseball
Positions: Quarterback, outfielder
Height: Five-foot-10 | Weight: 195 pounds
College: Oklahoma
Throws: Right | Bats: Right
Baseball organization: Oakland Athletics
Baseball contract: $4.66 million

The next Bo Jackson?

There have been athletes throughout the years who have attempted to professionally play two sports, but none have done it as successfully as Bo Jackson did.

Murray, however, could be the closest copy you’ll find in the current sports landscape.

Like Jackson, Murray won a Heisman Trophy in college, and while he likely won’t go first overall in the NFL draft like Jackson did, he does have the distinction of getting selected in the first round of his MLB draft — something Jackson missed out on, getting taken in the second, 20th and fourth round of the three drafts he participated in.

First-round talent is usually pretty undeniable, no matter what the sport, but for the sake of putting Murray’s athletic ability into proper context, consider this: When he was drafted by the A’s he was taken ninth overall in that draft despite the potential risk of his football career and, now that he’s entered the NFL draft, he’s likely to be one of the first three quarterbacks taken off the board — which could land him in the top half of the first round.

So while the demands of modern pro sports don’t really allow a player to play both at the same time anymore, it’s pretty fair to think that Murray would be able to excel at both the MLB and NFL levels.

Small wonder why he decided to recreate the ‘Bo Knows’ poster.

Elite football talent without the measurables

If there’s one sport that it seems like Murray’s better than the other in, though, it appears to be football.

Perhaps that’s in part because his football career has earned more publicity, but there’s a reason for that: Murray’s had a blessed football life thus far.

In high school he won three state titles, was 42-0 as a starting quarterback and was hailed as a five-star recruit.

Then, in college, he originally committed to play for Texas A&M. In his first start he threw for 223 yards and rushed for 156, while also passing and rushing for a touchdown each — becoming the first SEC pivot to throw and run for at least 100 yards while scoring a touchdown with both his arm and his legs in a game since Cam Newton.

Murray’s father, Kevin, was the Texas A&M quarterback from 1983 to 1986 and although he likely would’ve wanted his son to remain with his alma mater, that didn’t end up happening.

Instead, Murray transferred to Oklahoma from the Aggies after his freshman season, redshirting in 2016 so he could play in 2017, where he served as a backup to that season’s Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield.

Finally, in 2018, Murray got his shot as the Sooners’ starting quarterback and won the Heisman Trophy.

This is a football pedigree that — coupled with a dangerous dual-threat style that makes him inherently harder to defend — turns him into a no-brainer first-round NFL talent. However, Murray isn’t often talked about as being a top-five guy like other similar quarterbacks could be at the moment and that’s because of his smaller stature.

The NFL, generally, is kinder to taller quarterbacks and at five-foot-10, Murray doesn’t have that going for him. Then again, Russell Wilson is only an inch taller than Murray and look what he’s done so far.

Baseball’s in the blood

As outstanding a football prospect as Murray is, baseball runs through his veins just as much as pigskin does.

While Murray’s father played college football, his uncle, Calvin, played baseball professionally for the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs.

And in case you think you have no idea who Calvin Murray is, we assure you that you’ve at least seen him in one famous highlight. Calvin was the batter who was digging in when Randy Johnson famously killed that unfortunate dove that dared get in the way of ‘The Big Unit’s’ fastball.

Calvin enjoyed a five-season big-league career slashing .231/.315/.333 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 22 stolen bases over 719 plate appearances. He can brag to his nephew that he was taken seventh overall in the 1992 draft, a couple spots ahead of Kyler.

Spring Training will determine a fair bit

A big question surrounding Murray now is, “What’s next for him?” Making the decision to enter the NFL draft doesn’t necessarily mean it’s set in stone that he’s playing football professionally in lieu of baseball after all.

An important date to remember when keeping track of the drama to come involving Murray will be Feb. 15, when A’s players are to report in Arizona for the start of Spring Training. That date can be seen as one of the first indicators of which way he’s leaning.

The reason for this is because now that he’s announced his decision to enter the draft he can test the waters to see where his draft position could be and how much guaranteed money he could receive in the NFL.

Mayfield, his old Oklahoma teammate, signed a rookie deal that included $32.7 million guaranteed, a huge sum that is significantly more than the $4.66-million signing bonus Murray got from the A’s. However, Mayfield went first overall and it seems unlikely right now that Murray will be the No. 1 overall pick.

Thus, the biggest dilemma Murray needs to resolve from a pure financial standpoint is where more guaranteed money will come from, both now and in the future?

It’s possible that he could sign a huge guaranteed-money deal as a rookie coming into the NFL but still make more money in the long-run in MLB. After all, only part of the money you sign for in an NFL contract is guaranteed while the cash in MLB deals is fully guaranteed.

It will be an interesting situation to monitor, no matter what he decides.

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