Kyler Murray is everything that a college coach could want from a dual-threat quarterback, save the prototypical Pro Bowler size. At Allen, Murray was a perfect 43-0 over three seasons, winning three Texas Class 5A or 6A state titles (the largest classification changed during his time in high school). In his junior and senior seasons, he combined to pass for 7,640 yards and 91 touchdowns through the air, adding 2,737 yards and 42 touchdowns on the ground.
In short, Murray is a quarterbacking gift to a versatile spread offense, and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is pretty relieved that he renewed his pledge to the Aggies on Thursday night. There’s just one trick: As great as he is on the football field, he might have an even brighter pro future on the baseball diamond.
“He has a chance to go in the first round (of the Major League Baseball entry draft) this spring,” MLB.com and MLB Network’s Jim Callis told USA TODAY High School Sports. “He’s the X factor of this year’s draft. He can really run, put the bat on the ball, but there’s still some mystery about him. I don’t think he’s played as much shortstop for his high school team, and scouts haven’t figured out why that is. Usually the best athlete with the best arm plays shortstop. But that won’t matter if he has a great spring and shows he can play shortstop and shows a willingness to sign. He could be a first-round pick.
“He could be the best athlete in the draft overall. I think he’s on the short list right now. He’s a guy who people definitely want to see because of the speed and because his bat looks really promising. If he’s not up the middle at short stop he’s probably a second baseman.”
No matter where he lines up, one thing is certain: Baseball scouts can’t stop salivating over Murray’s athleticism. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder is the first high school prospect to ever earn Under Armour All-America honors in both football and baseball, and comes from a remarkable line of athletic talent with serious baseball chops. He’s currently ranked as the No. 29 overall MLB Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline and hit .432, with 31 RBI, 21 stolen bases and eight home runs as a junior. His uncle, Calvin Murray, is one of only a handful of players to ever be drafted in the first round more than once. Calvin Murray was selected 11th overall by the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 draft as a senior at W.T. White High School. He decided against signing with Cleveland, despite a potentially lucrative signing bonus, and instead headed to play at the University of Texas. Three years later he moved up four spots, selected seventh overall by the San Francisco Giants.
Calvin Murray never went on to reach the stardom that many had prescribed, but the outfielder did spend three years in the big leagues for the Giants, one for the Texas Rangers and another for the Chicago Cubs.
Closer to Kyler’s home, his father Kevin Murray was also drafted when he was leaving high school, selected in the 11th round in 1982 by the Milwaukee Brewers. He signed with the Brewers for a bonus of $35,000, then spent his first summer playing in the Class A Appalachian League before quickly deciding that baseball wasn’t for him. Kevin Murray returned to football, joining Texas A&M as a quarterback and quickly ascending to stardom in his new chosen role.
That’s the path that now stretches before Kevin Murray’s son, but the temptation to stick with baseball could be much stronger this time around. For one, Kyler Murray could easily receive a signing bonus that stretches into the eight figures as opposed to the five figures, as his father received.
Murray’s high school football coach, Tom Weatherford, said a big enough financial offer might very well land Murray in an MLB uniform rather than on campus in College Station.
“It just depends on how much money the baseball guys throw at him,” Weatherford told USA TODAY High School Sports, laughing. “It’s between he and his family and his surrounding network. They’re going to weigh their options in the June draft. If baseball buys him out of football, he’ll play baseball. If not, he’ll play football. Either way, they will make an intelligent decision. But at some point in time, I think you’ll see him on the football field.”
Even if he does eventually make it on to a football field, there are physical doubts about Murray’s NFL potential. No matter what he achieves at Texas A&M, should he attend (and assuming he doesn’t have a last-second change of heart before National Signing Day on Wednesday), NFL scouts will still question his ability to make all the NFL throws over larger offensive lines because of his height. Yes, All-Pro quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Drew Brees are approximately Murray’s height, but they are very much the exception rather than the rule at the highest level.
There are no such concerns about the impact of Murray’s height on the baseball diamond, and even with a limited sample size, he’s shown enough at the plate and in the field to convince scouts that he could be a superlative pro for some MLB team if he committed to the one sport.
Of course, there are no promises in sports at any level, and much could still happen before the MLB draft rolls around June 8-10. Even more can change over a three-year collegiate career, which is precisely why attending college might add an element of doubt for baseball scouts across the league.
A collegiate career could actually improve Murray’s draft stock, should he play baseball throughout his time in College Station. If he plays all three seasons and excels, he could fortify his potential in the mind of scouts, providing a certain degree of quality control. At the same time, it’s likely that those three years would be offset by Murray’s involvement on the gridiron, which scouts would view as lost development time for baseball.
“It’s tough being a QB because you’d ideally like him to go play in a summer league like Cape Cod without having to leave early for summer drills,” Callis said. “If you were a DB you get by a lot more on natural ability.”
Not that college baseball coaches would mind having Murray play football. To the contrary, legendary Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido, who was sounded out during Murray’s brief recruiting dalliance with the Longhorns, made it clear just how far he would go to get Murray to be a part of his program.
Then there is the ever-present risk of injury, in both football and baseball. Three more seasons of both sports holds innumerable potentials for career-threatening injuries. All part of the cornucopia of factors that could put pressure on the younger Murray to follow his father’s example again and sign after being drafted in June. If the goal is to strike while the iron is hot, there’s little question that Murray’s brand is hot among baseball scouts right now after an impressive showing at the Under Armour All-American Baseball Game in August.
“I don’t know how you can’t be impressed with Kyler Murray,” Steve Bernhardt, the executive vice president of baseball at Baseball Factory told Baseball America after the Under Armour All-America Game. “It had been around 45 days since he has done anything baseball-related because of football. You could tell in the first at-bat that he hadn’t seen pitching in a little while and his timing was a little bit off, although he was probably about six inches from tripling down the right field line on the foul ball. The next one he had the single on the broken bat, but it was a good swing up the middle. Then he steals two bases. Then the last one he showed the quickness in the hands and it was an impressive swing. You can’t helped but be really impressed with that type of athleticism and his ability to do what he did today against the best pitchers in the country having not played in so long, going 2-for-3 and stealing two bases.”