Kyler Murray Should Follow His Heart—and Play Football

If Murray chooses to play baseball over football now, will he spend the rest of his life wondering ‘what if?’
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Kyler Murray’s professional athletic future may be the hottest discussion topic in sports right now. If the Heisman Trophy winner chooses to play football—he declared for the NFL draft on Monday—he is sure to be on an NFL roster next year, he won’t have to spend time wading through baseball’s minor leagues and he can probably make more money faster. If he chooses baseball, he has a chance at a longer, more lucrative career, with lower physical risks.

One could argue pros and cons on each sport for hours. But really, it comes down to this:

If you don’t follow your dream when you’re 21, when do you?

Murray can pick to go pro in whichever sport he wants, of course, but he would wise to do just that: whatever he wants. Not whatever will pay the best, since both sports will pay him millions. Not what people tell him he should do. If one of these dreams is bigger than the other for him, then that is the one to pursue.

Based on his public comments and actions, Murray seems to have two stances.

One is that he knows he can’t play both sports. It may be possible to play in the NFL and Major League Baseball at the same time (well, not literally at the same time), but if your football position is quarterback, you have to choose. The commitment is just too great, and the schedule prohibits it. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders played football positions that allowed them to join NFL teams in the middle of the season, when they were done playing baseball. That does not work for a starting quarterback in the NFL.

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Murray’s other stance seems to be that he prefers football. He has not said this directly, so maybe I’m reading the wrong tea leaves. But he did say he would rather win the Heisman Trophy than the World Series. And while it is tempting to see his recent vacillations as a negotiating tactic, remember that his baseball agent, Scott Boras, said as recently as December that Murray would absolutely play baseball. Boras is a brilliant agent. He was not planning to use the NFL as baseball leverage. That should tell you that Murray just can’t bring himself to quit football.

He has not said, “I love football, but I signed with the Oakland A’s because my goal is to play in Major League Baseball.” He did say, “Right now, my future is already kind of planned out.”

When Murray signed with the Oakland A’s last summer, it was hard to imagine he would be in this position. He stands less than six feet tall, and at the time he had thrown eight collegiate touchdown passes and seven interceptions. His future appeared to be in baseball. But then he had one of the greatest college football seasons in memory and emerged as a tantalizing NFL prospect.

If he had not signed that A’s contract last summer, would he sign it now? That seems unlikely.

There are a lot of factors to consider—most notably, the many physical risks of playing football. But even that falls under the umbrella of what Kyler Murray wants to do. If he wants to play football despite the risks, he should, no matter what the A’s sprinkle on top of the contract he has already signed.

Once in a while, a student journalist will notice that going into journalism is like setting your wallet on fire while donating vital organs and will ask, “Would you recommend this profession to college students?” It would be easy to say no. But the real answer is this: When I was 21, I didn’t ask that question. I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew if I didn’t at least try to do it, I would regret it 30 years later.

That is where Murray is now, except on a far bigger stage, with far more money at stake and facing a much shorter timeframe. When he goes to bed at night, he probably thinks of one sport more than the other. And that’s the sport he should choose.

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