SOMEWHERE OVER THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS EN ROUTE TO NEW ORLEANS — If you pulled up’s homepage on Thursday night, you were likely greeted with a photo-shopped array of Kyler Murray pictures in a handful of different NFL jerseys to tease their latest mock draft

Google his name and, even before his expanding Wikipedia page, are pieces dissecting his height (from SI), others projecting him to about a half dozen teams, and others breaking down the gambling odds on where he’ll land. If it wasn’t already apparent, an NFL draft that was heavy on defensive talent (read: a draft missing that signature marketing draw that the league seems to uncover every year around this time) may have found the centerpiece of its televised stage show.

Isn’t it strange that, in a way, Murray has to choose between a league that probably can’t market him well enough and a league that has the tendency to oversaturate this time of year? The draft process alone is grueling, even for the quarterbacks who seem to get a pass from the scout-whispering community, with “ideal” NFL size and some experience in a “pro-style offense,” whatever that means now. Just ask everyone who went through the meat grinder a year ago. Murray will be experiencing the polar opposite of his low-visibility summer slog through the Oakland A’s farm system. He will be the fulcrum on which all draft coverage pivots. Long shots in the green room, should he opt to go (and you’d bet they really want him to go). Hours of yakking devoted just to him. Thank goodness Jon Gruden coaches an NFL team now. 

The sane among us just hope that Murray picks whatever makes him happy. The shame in all this is that a kid has to decide between two kids games—what should be a testament to all his hard work and sacrifice over the years—but will end up getting ripped apart no matter what he picks. Or, he’ll at least sustain a few bumps and bruises along the way from people who think they should jump on a soapbox and weigh in.

Maybe what some professional athletes say is true: Once you block out all the noise and hit the field, it’s still the same game. And hopefully that’s true for Murray, that whatever sport he ends up playing produces that organic happiness. But along the way, we can also hope that, if football is what he chooses, the NFL grinder doesn’t ruin it for him. 

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Sage advice from a true hero. Don’t ever forget it.

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