Kyler Murray says he is committed to playing football for Oklahoma this season even after becoming a top-10 pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
Murray, the favorite to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield as the Sooners‘ starting quarterback, was selected ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics on Monday night, putting him in position for a signing bonus of about $4.8 million to play baseball.
The speedy Murray has been a major league prospect since high school. He played outfield for the Sooners and hit .296 with 10 homers, 13 doubles and three triples in 189 at-bats this season.
Still, his selection so early in the first round was a surprise, and it could mean a change in career paths for the former five-star football recruit.
The slot value for the No. 9 pick is $4,761,500. If the A’s don’t sign him, they would lose that amount from their available bonus pool of $9,553,200 this year but would get the No. 8 pick as compensation next year. The deadline for Murray to sign is July 6.
On a conference call with reporters Monday night, Murray initially put off questions about whether he would give up college football for pro baseball.
“Right now, I’m really not focused on the football-baseball situation,” he said. “I’m just soaking in the night.”
But when asked again about the coming football season, Murray said he had informed the Athletics that baseball would have to wait.
“I will be playing football this season,” Murray said. “Confirmed.”
Murray could sign with Oakland and still play for Oklahoma, putting his baseball career on hold until 2019. But will the A’s want to risk their 5-foot-11, 195-pound first-rounder playing a season of football — especially as a dual-threat quarterback in the Big 12?
“I think that Oakland obviously feels that there are certain inherently appealing aspects to being a professional baseball player that put us in a position to be competitive for the very best athletes, and that’s important for the future of our sport,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said at the baseball draft in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Murray did not play baseball during his first two years in college and batted only .122 in 49 at-bats for the Sooners in 2017. He credited playing in the Cape Cod League for top prospects last summer with helping him regain his form.
“I’m a very confident guy no matter what I’m doing,” Murray said. “With the reps and time put in I feel like I can do anything.”
Murray was one of the most celebrated high school football players in Texas history, going 42-0 as a starter and leading powerhouse Allen High to three state titles before signing with Texas A&M in 2015. He played eight games and made three starts as a freshman for the Aggies, passing for 686 yards and running for 335. But he left the team before its bowl game and transferred to Oklahoma the next season.
He sat out to satisfy NCAA rules in 2016, and figured to be in line to start in 2017. But Mayfield, who also transferred to Oklahoma, was granted an extra year of eligibility and returned to the Sooners for his final college season.
That left Murray with scant playing time in 2017. He went 18 of 21 for 359 yards passing and three touchdowns, and ran for 142 yards on 14 carries. He made one start, playing the first series against West Virginia after Mayfield was benched for sideline antics against Kansas the week before. Oklahoma reached the College Football Playoff last year, losing in overtime to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
With Mayfield off to the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in April, Murray seems set to get his turn at the helm. Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley declined to name a starter after spring practice, when Murray competed with sophomore Austin Kendall.
During the spring game, Murray was 11 of 21 for 85 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 35 yards. Kendall completed 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards and a score. Murray is small for an NFL quarterback, but that size is not as much of an issue in college. He is a potentially dynamic player who could make Oklahoma the Big 12 favorite again.
“I fully expect him to be with us,” Riley told reporters in Norman, Oklahoma, last week.
After Murray was selected by the Athletics, Oklahoma football’s official Twitter account posted: “Congrats (at)TheKylerMurray! (hash)OUDNA”