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'I don’t see that changing at the next level': Kyler Murray set to succeed, as he always has, in NFL

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Redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray gets ready to throw the ball during the Orange Bowl against Alabama Dec. 29.

Following a 45-34 loss to the No. 1 Alabama, Kyler Murray sat before the Oklahoma media one final time. And, of course, was asked about his future: Will it be football or baseball?

“Well,” a somber Murray said with a pause, “I haven’t really thought about it much.”

Monday, 45 days after his last college football game, Murray silenced the rumors and made it official in a 93-word tweet.

Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback. Football has been my love and my passion my entire life. I raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedication 100 percent of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships. I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.

Murray’s decision to focus solely on football isn’t a surprising one. Despite being drafted No. 9 overall by the Oakland A’s in the 2018 MLB Draft, Murray’s first love has always been football. He played at Oklahoma in 2018 to fulfill his dream of being a starting quarterback at a major Division I program. And as the 2018 season progressed, more and more signs pointed toward him coming to this decision.

Breaking the record for total QBR (95.8). Leading Oklahoma to a fourth-straight Big 12 title. Winning the Heisman Trophy. Playing in the College Football Playoff.

Murray had a near-perfect final season of college football, with his draft stock rising as each Saturday passed. Which left the question, why wouldn’t he choose football?

“He’s a game-changer — just look at when he played for us,” said Tom Westerberg, Murray’s former head coach at Allen High School. “Do you pick him out as a sophomore that he’s going to be an NFL player? No. But do you learn over the years that if you tell Kyler he can’t do something that he’s going to prove you wrong? Yep.

“When someone said he couldn’t play in the NFL, he set his mind out to prove them wrong.”

Murray already has his doubters heading into the NFL. They don’t question his arm or mobility — he threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns while rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns — and they especially don’t question his football IQ. Instead, they question his size. All 5-foot-10-inches, 195 pounds of him.

He would be the smallest starting quarterback in the league if the 2019 season started tomorrow.

But the recent success of quarterbacks like Seattle’s Russell Wilson (5’11"), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (6’0") and even Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield (6’0"), give Murray hope and NFL teams a reason to look past his small stature. Murray’s height is all national media will talk about leading up to the draft April 25-27, but Westerberg, and many others, have already tuned out the noise.

“They’re not very smart,” Westerberg said. “They don’t do their homework. They don’t know him … It’s guys that just get paid to talk and really don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Those who do know Murray know he has the potential to be a starting NFL quarterback, and a good one at that.

He has a cannon for an arm, he’s often the fastest player on the field and he rarely loses, going 43-0 as a starter in high school and 12-2 in college. Murray’s confidence level is similar to Mayfield’s — not in a loud or in-your-face way, but in a cool and collected way. He has a swagger few possess and demands excellence not only from himself, but from everyone around him.

“He’s a perfectionist. He doesn’t like to lose. He doesn’t like to not be at the top level of what he’s doing,” Westerberg said. “What you’re going to get is a guy that works extremely hard to be a perfectionist at whatever he’s doing. He wanted to practice at such a high level that it made the game slower. And as a teammate, he expects them to do the same thing. I don’t see that changing at the next level.”

Murray will continue to be one of the biggest offseason stories, as he should be. Baseball fans will wonder what could have been, while football fans will wonder what will be. And Sooner Nation will once again watch from a distance as their latest quarterback takes center stage.

“My goal was to be remembered here. I think that should be anybody’s goal, to step on campus and to make a name for yourself,” Murray said after the Orange Bowl. “I hope I did that."

Murray did that at OU. And now he has the chance to do it in the NFL.

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George Stoia joined The Daily in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore and has covered the soccer team, both men's and women's basketball, as well as the football team for the past three years. He graduates in May 2020.

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