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  • If this is his final season playing football, Kyler Murray has made it a historic one. There’s always a chance he finds a way to play both professional football and baseball, but for now Murray can say he went out on top.
By Laken Litman
December 08, 2018

NEW YORK — Baseball might still be Kyler Murray’s future, but Saturday night the Oklahoma quarterback took home college football’s most famous award. Murray led the Sooners to their fourth consecutive Big 12 championship, a third College Football Playoff in five years, and is now the program’s seventh Heisman Trophy winner.

“It’s very surreal, it hasn’t hit me yet,” Murray said after receiving his trophy. He gave a heartfelt acceptance speech and grew particularly emotional when he thanked coach Lincoln Riley. “I put so much time and effort into this game. This is a great accomplishment, but I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for so many people in my life.”

Murray collected 517 first-place votes and 2,167 points in the voting totals in the 84th annual Heisman ceremony. It was one of the closest races in history, with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa making a strong push with 1,871 points (299 first-place votes) and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins coming in third place with 783 points (46 first-place votes). This was the first time since 2008 that all three finalists were quarterbacks (Sam Bradford won 10 years ago, with Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow as runners up). It’s also the first time there has ever been consecutive quarterbacks selected from the same school (Baker Mayfield won in 2017).

The closest vote in Heisman history took place in 2009 when Alabama running back Mark Ingram (1,304 votes) beat out Stanford running back Toby Gerhart (1,276).

Earlier in the week, Murray won the Davey O’Brien Award, which honors the nation’s best quarterback, and Tagovailoa received the Maxwell Award for player of the year.

Awarding Murray the Heisman is only further proof of his superhuman talent. After taking Oklahoma as far as it can in the College Football Playoff, Murray plans to embark on an exciting professional baseball career and join the Oakland Athletics organization, which selected him ninth overall in last spring’s Major League Baseball draft (and included a $4.66 million signing bonus). It will be interesting to see how his freakish speed and athleticism translate to the baseball diamond.

However, Murray has recently hinted that he’d like to explore a potential NFL career as well. There’s always a chance he becomes this generation’s version of Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders and finds a way to play both professional football and baseball.

If this is his final season playing football, Murray has made it a historic one. He’s completed more than 70% of his passes and has the nation’s highest passing efficiency rating. And he’s also the first player in FBS history to average 300 yards passing and 60 yards rushing, while leading Oklahoma to its fourth Big 12 title and its second consecutive playoff berth. The Sooners face Alabama in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29.

Murray transferred to Oklahoma from Texas A&M before the 2016 season. He sat out his first year and learned under Mayfield, former Heisman winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick, in 2017. It’s silly to think about it now, but there was some apprehension and doubt about how good Oklahoma would be when Murray replaced Mayfield. But he proved he could fulfill his football potential before switching sports.

"I’d be lying if I said (it was easy),” Murray said. “As hard as it may seem, and it was definitely difficult at times, when I wasn’t playing and always wanted to be out there. I trust the process and I knew once my time came. And it was easy sitting behind Bake because he was a total expert in what he was doing. Wasn’t like he wasn’t doing his job. He did everything and more for us. For me, it was easy to learn behind him and witness what he did at Oklahoma was big for me and part of the reason why I’m sitting up here today."

Though Murray’s situation is unique, he isn’t the first Heisman winner with a future in another sport. Former Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward (1993) was selected 26th overall by the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA draft and played in the league for 11 years.

Tagovailoa had been the Heisman frontrunner all season, but his candidacy took a hit when he was injured during the SEC championship while Murray lit up Texas for 379 yards and three touchdowns in the Big 12 championship. Tagovailoa wore a walking boot to protect his recently surgically repaired left ankle during his weekend in New York City, but Alabama trainer Jeff Allen taped him up for the ceremony so that he didn’t have to Saturday night. Had Tagovailoa won, he probably would have been the first Heisman winner to get his ankle taped before the ceremony.

With seven Heisman winners now, Oklahoma moves into a tie with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the most all time. Former OU recipients include Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White, Bradford and Mayfield. “For me to put my name in the history books at Oklahoma is pretty special,” Murray said. 

Earlier Saturday evening before the ceremony, Murray was asked, if he had to choose, whether he’d rather win the Heisman or a World Series.

“Heisman,” he said. “No disrespect to the World Series.”

Murray still has a playoff ahead of him, but has reached one of his greatest individual goals. If he never plays football again after this season, at least he can say he went out on top.

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