NORMAN — Oklahoma baseball coach Skip Johnson envisioned Kyler Murray as an Andrew McCutchen-type player in Major League Baseball — dynamic with his speed and ability to swing a bat.
“I think he’d be a guy like that,” Johnson said recently.
The world will likely never know now.
Murray committed to football instead of baseball Monday. He posted a Twitter statement that abruptly ended speculation about whether he would join the Oakland Athletics on the first day of spring training Saturday.
On the football field, his eye-popping numbers as OU’s quarterback last fall won him the Heisman Trophy, but raised questions about whether he would honor his commitment with the A’s.
Murray was clear about that in his latest statement, which made no mention of the team that selected him No. 9 overall in last summer’s MLB Draft.
“Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback,” Murray wrote in a statement. “Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100 percent of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships.
“I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”
The A’s reportedly were not informed of Murray’s decision beforehand. His desire to play baseball had become more difficult to gauge in recent weeks after he declared for the NFL draft and was listed online by the league as a draft combine participant. Murray has not publicly committed to attending the combine.
Monday, Oakland general manager David Forst reiterated the team has always understood Murray’s pro football prospects — even before they awarded him a $4.66 million contract and he won the Heisman.
Murray will return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus the A’s already gave him and forfeits the remaining $3.16 million he was due in March, according to ESPN. Because Murray signed a contract, Oakland won’t be compensated for his pick but retains his rights should he return to baseball.
Murray could make more money as a successful NFL quarterback. He is widely projected as a first-round pick. ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. predict he’ll be taken No. 13 overall by the Miami Dolphins.
According to Spotrac, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson earned a $4.97 million signing bonus as last season’s No. 32 overall pick; former OU quarterback Baker Mayfield signed a $21.85 signing bonus with the Cleveland Browns as the No. 1 pick.
The A’s tried enticing Murray to choose baseball, reportedly offering a restructured contract and a spot on their 40-man roster during a January meeting in Dallas, which included an MLB marketing executive and Murray’s agent, Scott Boras.
One day later Murray declared for the NFL Draft. As a franchise quarterback, it is unlikely he could pursue both sports.
“Let’s put it this way. Quarterback is a very demanding position, as is being a major league baseball player,” Oakland vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said Monday before Murray’s announcement. “To say someone could or couldn’t, I’m not here to say, but something like that is part of our private discussions.”
Murray’s next move could be the combine, which will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, from Feb. 26-March 4. He would have an opportunity to showcase his arm and 4.40, 40-yard dash speed, the tools that cause many to envision him becoming the first person to be selected in both the NFL and MLB first rounds.
But he must also overcome other historical hurdles.
Only five quarterbacks at 5 foot 10 or shorter have registered a pass in an NFL game since 1960, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Murray, who was measured by OU at that same height in shoes before the 2018 season, passed for 4,361 yards and ran for 1,001 last fall and accounted for 54 total touchdowns.
A’s officials say they don’t regret taking Murray with their top pick. Beane, who made a cameo in one of OU’s “Kyler Knows” videos to promote Murray’s Heisman candidacy, tried making some light of it.
“If I can get do-overs, can I maybe invest in Apple stock 30 years ago as my first choice?” Beane quipped. “I don’t get do-overs.”
As for Johnson, he just hopes Murray is content. The coach was on staff for both of Murray’s collegiate baseball seasons in Norman and the two spoke in late December, not long after OU lost to Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
“I said, ‘Kyler, the biggest thing you can do is do what you want to do. Because at the end of the day when you do what you want to do, I think you’re gonna put your heart into it,’” Johnson said.