Oklahoma Sooners starting quarterback Kyler Murray was selected ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the Major League Baseball draft on June 4. After agreeing to a $4.66 million contract with the Athletics, Murray decided to come back for one last season of college football with the Sooners. The decision to return to the Sooners was surprising, with sports media and athletes emphasizing the injury risk he was undertaking, as well as the larger contracts that Major League Baseball offers than those offered in the National Football League, where even the best players, depending on their position, make much less than baseball players.
“Kyler Murray better take that baseball bread. Football money cool and all but that baseball money STUPID!”, Detroit Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs tweeted July 5, 2018.
While his return to college football might have initially been seen as hubris, Murray’s play has erased most, if not all, initial skepticism. Through three games, Murray has amassed 863 passing yards, a 67.1% completion rate, and eight touchdowns to one interception. Oklahoma is currently undefeated at 3-0 and is touted as a potential playoff contender by analysts and fans alike.
Before the season, the Big 12 Conference as a whole was given a 29% chance to make it into the playoffs. After updating the odds, Oklahoma was given a 50 percent chance of making it into the playoffs, according to ESPN College Football Playoff Predictor. Murray’s early season success has even prompted comparisons to former OU quarterback and Cleveland Browns’ first overall draft pick, Baker Mayfield.
“Baker Mayfield through three games last year: 1,033 yards, 10 TDs. Kyler Murray through three games this year: 1,030 yards, 10 TDs,” ESPN writer David Hale reported.
In spite of the early success and comparisons, Murray’s decision is still risky. The overall injury rate in NCAA football is 8.1 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures (games and practices combined), according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Against Iowa State, Murray rushed 15 times, 10 of those rushes being designed quarterback runs. Racking up hit after hit on the field could, potentially, have a long term impact on his baseball career. Murray, at 5’11”, 194 lbs., is slightly built for a quarterback. If Oklahoma plans on giving him 10 designated runs per game, then it is a question of when, not if, he gets injured, and how severely. Unless he wins a Heisman trophy as the best player in the country, or Oklahoma wins a national championship, then Murray will have risked too much for his football dreams.
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