The Oakland A’s had a busy awards season over the last month, but this is getting ridiculous. In November they picked up a couple Gold Gloves and a Manager of the Year, among other hardware, but on Saturday they got tired of baseball honors and won something in football instead: the Heisman Trophy, courtesy of Kyler Murray.
The A’s chose Murray in the 1st round of the draft this past summer, but with the understanding that the two-sport star would play one more season of college football before shifting his focus to baseball. That final season went better than anyone could have imagined, and Murray’s Oklahoma Sooners are still in the hunt for the National Championship. Along the way he put up record-setting numbers, netting himself the top individual award in the sport. He also won the Davey O’Brien award (top college QB) and the Associated Press Player of the Year award.
Unfortunately for A’s fans, Murray’s enormous success as a quarterback is beginning to cast doubt on his future. A couple weeks ago he reaffirmed his commitment to baseball, saying: “I feel like I could play in the NFL, but as far as giving it up, as of now that’s the plan.” Still, though, it’s easy to remain nervous with the national media (rightfully) fawning all over him, and especially as his fairy-tale season grows more and more fantastic every week. Whereas he was once seen as a fringe NFL prospect due to his modest size, prompting his presumed switch to the diamond, there’s now talk about him being a candidate for the first couple rounds of the upcoming draft.
Murray has added fuel to the speculation with his own comments about his love of football. He made it sound like the door was still open to picking the NFL in a recent interview with ESPN, and at Heisman media day on Friday he expressed interested in playing both sports professionally, reports Julian McWilliams of The Athletic. After winning the Heisman on Saturday, he ranked it as higher on his list of dreams than a World Series title.
Alright guys, follow up with @TheKylerMurray confirms he would rather win a #Heisman than a #WorldSeries. No disrespect though. @KleinschmidtJD @NBCSports @BleacherReport @ESPNCFB @HeismanTrophy pic.twitter.com/zQUK2LBJLz— Emily Van Buskirk (@Emilnem) December 9, 2018
On the bright side, there is still one huge reason for A’s fans to hope that Murray will honor his $4.66 million contract with the club: His baseball agent is Scott Boras. Love him or (far more likely) loathe him, Boras is undeniably a person who gets what he wants and delivers on his stated goals. On the topic of Murray, he did not mince words on Thursday (via Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle): “Kyler has every intention of fulfilling his agreement with the A’s and he’s grateful he has had the chance to pursue his college goals. He will be in spring training with the A’s.” It feels weird to be rooting for Boras, but here we are.
Personally, I’m choosing not to get caught up in the will-he-won’t-he drama over the next few months. Obviously I care about the outcome, but nothing can be done about it right now. There are enough things to worry about on the A’s without stressing over Murray’s future, and none of the quotes and predictions and spin are going to matter in the end. Call me in February when he either shows up to spring training or he doesn’t, because that’s the next data point that actually means anything. Until we hear otherwise, he is objectively, contractually an A’s prospect.
Besides, this should be a time of celebration and appreciation, not anxiety and dread. A young athlete is on top of the world and living his best life, and he appears to be enjoying every second of it just like he should. GM David Forst is saying the right things, so let’s follow his example and just be happy for the kid for a while, and then worry about tomorrow when it comes.
Forst declines comment when asked about Kyler Murray, says the A's just want him to enjoy the rest of his college football experience and like everyone else, Forst is looking forward to watching the Orange Bowl.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 7, 2018
Whatever happens next year, we can all agree on one thing: Congrats to Kyler on an awesome achievement!
Fun Fact Epilogue: Two past Heisman winners have gone on to play in MLB. Bo Jackson is the famous example who already comes up in every conversation about Murray, but 1950 winner Vic Janowicz also played two seasons for the Pirates in 1953-54 before switching back to football and the NFL. Jackson, of course, is the only player ever to reach All-Star status in both sports.
In addition, Murray and 2017 winner Baker Mayfield notched a historical first. They are the first pair of quarterbacks from the same school to win the Heisman in back-to-back years. There have been two straight winners from the same school before, but not two straight QBs.