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Kyler Murray’s Big Bet On Football Pays Off

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray waves after the Arizona Cardinals selected Murray in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
New Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray walks across the Nashville stage after being selected first overall Thursday night.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Thirty minutes after he became the first player taken in Thursday’s NFL draft, Kyler Murray finally stole a moment to look at his phone.

As his thumb scrolled through text message after text message, a smile flashed across his face and his eyes beamed at the outpouring of support.

“This is ridiculous,” Murray said.

The journey to get here was just as unthinkable.

Ten months ago, the Oakland Athletics made Murray the No. 9 overall selection in the MLB draft and gave him a signing bonus worth nearly $5 million.

Instead of racing to the minor leagues, Murray went back to Oklahoma for one final season of college football, fully believing that a professional future in the NFL could emerge. It came to fruition when Commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name to the rain-soaked crowd in Music City, making Murray the first player in history to be a first-round pick in baseball and football.

“I’ve always prepared myself for this moment,” Murray said. “Getting drafted, playing baseball – thinking in the back of my head, I better go out here and ball out this season so hopefully the NFL can see what I’m capable of.”

Murray spoke excitedly about the Cardinals and the pairing with coach Kliff Kingsbury, an offensive guru who has long clamored for the dual-threat quarterback to be his maestro. Kingsbury unsuccessfully tried recruiting Murray to Texas Tech but now gets him in the NFL.

"He’s a dynamic talent, a unique talent that I don’t know if anyone has seen," Kingsbury said.

Murray declined to say if there will be a no-baseball clause in his contract but did not talk like a player who has any plans to leave the gridiron.

“My only future is in football right now,” Murray said.

The pick of the 5-foot-10 Murray was the latest salvo in an evolving NFL, one that is putting less emphasis on height and more on playmaking ability. As recently as a half-decade ago, Murray may have gone down the baseball path because of a hesitancy from NFL evaluators to give him a chance at quarterback.

But college teams started giving smaller signal-callers a shot in spread offenses, and players like Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield showed that their success could translate to the NFL.

Murray is the shortest quarterback ever taken in the first round, and despite that, the natural athleticsm turned him into a must-have for the Cardinals, even after they took quarterback Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick a season ago.

Murray has known nothing but success since childhood, running circles around opponents in football and dominating on the diamond. In the midst of a chaotic night, he took a fleeting moment to recall the path here.

“I was trying to put myself back in my little kid body, to just think back about everything that has taken place over the years, all the football I’ve played,” Murray said. “It’s crazy.”

The focus will now turn to the future, and if the bold draft choice will breathe new life into the Cardinals. Murray gambled on himself, risking injury to keep his NFL dream alive. Now it’s the Cardinals betting big that his talent is transcendent.

“I’ve seen guys who have thrown it like him, I’ve seen guys who have run it like him," General Manager Steve Keim said. "But I can tell you I haven’t seen anybody who can do the combination that he brings to the table. The ability to throw the football with timing, accuracy and touch, and to be able to run the football, extend plays and create like he does."

Images of new Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray at the draft in Nashville

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