MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The biggest football game of Kyler Murray’s life may have marked the final time the Heisman Trophy winner stepped on a football field.
And if the dual-sport star took his final snap in a 45-34 Orange Bowl loss to Alabama, it may always haunt him.
The Oklahoma quarterback finished with sparkling numbers worthy of the award forever attached to his name. He threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 109 yards and another score.
But his brilliance was bottled up until Alabama scored the game’s first 28 points, as the Sooners recorded their second-lowest point total of the season, with the 71 percent passer completing 19-of-37 throws.
It wasn’t until the game was essentially over that the show began.
“Early in the first half, jitters, you haven’t played in a month, we just didn’t execute in the first quarter,” Murray said. “It was just getting a feel for the game, and it was too late. … You can’t go down 28-0 against good teams like that. I think that’s the moral of the story.”
The 21-year-old, who was drafted by the Oakland A’s, but granted permission to fulfill his dream of being a starting quarterback in college football — like his father, Kevin — produced one of the greatest individual seasons in the sport’s history after watching last year’s playoff as Baker Mayfield’s unknown backup.
Though Murray plans to attend spring training in February and already has received a $4.6 million signing bonus, the center fielder could also be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, which lacks elite quarterbacks.
“He’s in a great situation. I mean, the guy is already the ninth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, and I think he’ll probably be somewhere around the same spot if he chooses to go football-wise,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said before the game. “We just had a guy go first overall the year before [Baker Mayfield], and I think this guy is that kind of impact player and certainly a rare athlete, one of those that you very well may go through the rest of your career coaching and never have one like that again. I mean, he’s that unique.
“He’s either going to be a Major League Baseball star or he’s going to be a Pro Bowler. He just needs to decide which one. Maybe both.”
Both is unlikely. It hasn’t been accomplished since Deion Sanders, and the demands at quarterback make the feat far more challenging.
Choosing football would mean giving up the baseball signing bonus. Choosing football could mean a shorter career, constantly threatened by injury. But choosing football also could ultimately mean more money and glory, fame and fulfillment.
“I wanted to win a national championship and fell short,” Murray said. “This is the most fun I’ve had playing football in I don’t know how long.”
It is a great problem to have. It’s a decision he’s delaying as long as possible.
“I really haven’t thought about it right now,” said Murray, when asked of his future plans. “I can’t answer that question.”
Pretty soon, Murray will have to.