When the Oakland A’s chose football star Kyler Murray in the first round of the draft this summer, they did so with the understanding that he would switch to baseball in 2019. That still appears to be the plan.
“I feel like I could play in the NFL, but as far as giving it up, as of now that’s the plan,” said Murray on Monday, courtesy of Sooner Sports. A follow-up question clarified that he meant playing baseball and giving up football completely.
The A’s selected Murray with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft, and the sides eventually agreed to a $4.66 million contract. As part of the deal, he was allowed to play one more season of college football before shifting his full focus from the gridiron to the diamond next year. After all, his relatively modest size figured to limit his NFL stock as a quarterback, while his elite athleticism gave him considerable upside as an outfielder in baseball.
However, the last few months have made the green-and-gold faithful a bit nervous that the future isn’t completely set in stone. For starters, Murray is having an excellent season for Oklahoma. He’s leading the top offense in the FBS (out of 130 total teams), and along the way he’s putting up monster stats of his own. He’s a front-runner for the Heisman, and over the next few weeks he may have a chance to play for the championship.
On top of that, it didn’t help to hear Murray’s football coach cast doubt in August. “We’ll see if it’s his final year. That hasn’t really been determined yet,” said Sooners coach Lincoln Riley during his team’s preseason, via Jason Kersey of The Athletic. Likewise, back then Murray himself wouldn’t entirely squash the idea playing in the NFL: “I’m always open to doing things, but I don’t know how possible it is right now,” (via Joe Mussatto, The Oklahoman).
And then, there was the Bo Jackson photo. A couple weeks ago, Murray mimicked the famous pose of the two-sport dynamo, who split time between the NFL and MLB and stands as the only player ever to be an All-Star in both leagues. It was easy to wonder whether that might be a signal of things to come.
None of this necessarily matters. Big college stats don’t guarantee viability in the NFL. You can’t blame his coach for leaving the door open to a star player who still has a year of NCAA eligibility left. And the photo is just a photo, one which the A’s didn’t seem too worried about. But still, with all the national attention around him, hearing him confirm things once more does help refresh our peace of mind that there won’t be a twist ending that costs Oakland a top prospect.
There’s no specific reason to expect anything other than the outcome that all parties contractually agreed to. As far as everyone knows, Murray will walk away from football next year and fully commit to the A’s. And every time he says it out loud, it’s music to the ears of Athletics Nation.
If you need any more reason for optimism, remember that Murray’s agent, Scott Boras, is generally known for getting what he wants. Back in August, in the same articles as those wishy-washy quotes by Riley and Murray, Boras had this to say (via Kersey): “Kyler’s baseball career has a very defined path which includes playing football at OU for only the 2018 season.” And via Mussatto: “Any judgments made as to him executing his contractual commitments, understand who Kyler is. He’s committed to his team at OU, and he’s also committed to the Oakland A’s.”
At the end of the day, we’ll have to wait until next year to truly see what happens. But for now, this isn’t something that Oakland fans should be spending any attention worrying about. It’ll probably all be fine anyway, and if there’s anything to keep your fingers crossed about it’s his health in his final game(s) of an incredibly dangerous side hobby. He’s an A’s prospect until we hear otherwise, and in the meantime there’s a 2019 starting rotation to think about.