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Kyler Murray Is Top-Notch. Will He Pursue: Baseball Or Football?

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Kyler Murray can certainly play baseball. In fact, he was a top-10 draft pick by the Oakland A's back in June. But he can also play football pretty well. He just completed a season as quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners. And he won the Heisman Trophy. So what do you do if you're in his position? Do you pursue baseball or football? Well, yesterday, Murray announced that he is filing paperwork to enter the NFL draft. And to talk about what that means for him in both of these sports, we turn to Jeff Passan, who has been following his decision-making process for ESPN. He joins us on Skype.

Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF PASSAN: Good morning, David. How are you?

GREENE: I'm good - fascinating story of this athlete. If he's - if Murray's entering the NFL draft, does that mean baseball's off the table for him?

PASSAN: Not necessarily, and that is the confusing and fascinating part of this whole story. The Oakland A's drafted Kyler Murray with the ninth pick last year and gave him a signing bonus of $4.66 million. And there was one caveat - that he could go back to Oklahoma and play football for one year. It was almost like a parting gift for him. And the A's thought that he was going to have fun at Oklahoma and maybe throw a few touchdowns and...

GREENE: (Laughter).

PASSAN: ...Be back in spring training and a full-time baseball player the next year. Well, Kyler Murray went out and had one of the statistically greatest seasons in college football history. And...

GREENE: He goes and wins the Heisman Trophy, which makes everything...

PASSAN: Yeah.

GREENE: ...Harder for him or - easier or harder.

PASSAN: And suddenly, now NFL teams are interested in him and throwing first-round grades and potentially guaranteeing him even more money than he would have been making in baseball.

GREENE: So you say baseball - not off the table. Does that mean - I mean, he could be like a Bo Jackson, a Deion Sanders, and actually play both of these sports professionally.

PASSAN: I desperately wish that were the case as a child of the '80s who grew up worshipping Bo Jackson and loving Deion Sanders.

GREENE: I'm with you.

PASSAN: But the rigors of quarterbacking in 2019 and the fact that coaches want you to be in the film room all of the time and learning playbooks, it's just not realistic to think that Kyler Murray could be a quarterback in the NFL and a center fielder in baseball. Now, that being said, could he potentially play some minor league baseball in the off-season and play football year - I want it to be true. I really do. The big question with Kyler Murray, though, it's not which does he choose. It's, can he be successful in either? He has not played baseball barely at all since going to college. And the problem and the drawback with him in football and the reason people are questioning his ability there - Kyler Murray's only five-foot-nine. We haven't seen a quarterback that short in the NFL since Doug Flutie, so he's no sure thing in football either.

GREENE: Does his story tell us anything larger about sports in this moment?

PASSAN: Yeah, that you don't have to specialize. And this is something near and dear to my heart having written a book on baseball players blowing out their arms because they throw too much as kids. And the idea that Kyler Murray did not himself say, I have to choose baseball or football early. I can continue to play at both, shows kids that, hey. Even though there's pressures going on from youth coaches, you do not have to succumb to them.

GREENE: ESPN's Jeff Passan - Jeff, thanks a lot.

PASSAN: Pleasure's mine, David. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.