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Sports Authority

Hoonhout: Kyler Murray should avoid the NFL

| Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Sports Authority is all about why Kyler Murray should play baseball over football.

My good friend and colleague Joe Everett had a sound take yesterday on why Kyler Murray is worth a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, even if he stands at only 5-foot-9. While I may disagree, Joe and I do agree on one thing — Kyler Murray has to choose one.

If you don’t believe us, take it from one that tried: “Life won’t allow him to. This game won’t allow him to at this position.”

This past Monday, Deion Sanders — who played in both the MLB and the NFL, which is the subject of an upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary — added a further twist in the Murray debate when, on SportsCenter, he unequivocally made his stance on choosing one sport over the other.

Just for some background — the nine-time NFL All-Pro tried to make both lives work, and while he excelled in football, the baseball career didn’t take off. Which adds some light to the real bombshell of the soundbite: “If I was in his shoes, I’m picking up the baseball bat and I’m not looking back.”

I have to agree here.

On one hand, it’s easy to say Sanders only feels the way he does because he feels he left a lot on the diamond in pursuit of glory on the gridiron. When you are in a position like his, playing not one, but two sports at the highest level, against many guys that have focused on honing only one over their lifetime, there are bound to be situations where you can’t have it all, and I think Sanders’ career reflects that — as good as professional athletes are, there’s a reason there has only ever been one Bo Jackson.

But Sanders’ critique is not simply wishful thinking. He explains later in the brief interview that Murray will have to answer to a lot more critics on the gridiron, and not necessarily for all the right reasons. If the Heisman winner ends up walking across the stage in Nashville on April 25, he will be walking into a ring of fire.

Sanders knows the life of a dual-sport athlete, and even if Murray ends up only playing one, as I think he should, it would be wise to listen to someone who has been in the same predicament before. Sanders rightfully points out that Murray has two options with very different starting points — a sport where his physical tools will be and have already been widely praised, and one where he will be instantly under a microscope.

As a quarterback, Murray will be instantly asked to “play larger than life” — as Everett pointed out yesterday. There’s a reason that you just don’t see a lot of sub-six-foot quarterbacks in the National Football League, and it’s simply down to how the game has developed — quarterbacks need to be able to both see the field and avoid punishment from big hits. The smaller you are, the more fragile you are in both departments.

And of course, there’s also the more despicable reason that Murray will most likely face more adversity as a NFL quarterback simply by nature of his skin color. Unfortunately, the racist narrative of white quarterbacks holding a monopoly on the position still underpins the sport, and frankly, Murray won’t have to deal with that in Major League Baseball.

And finally, there’s the risk factor. It’s common sense to assume that Murray has a better chance of a longer and more prosperous career in baseball than in the NFL — more guaranteed money, and less wear and tear on the body. While Murray may have already declared for the NFL Draft, in baseball he is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who negotiated his $4.66 million dollar contract from the Oakland A’s, and only a month ago said “it’s already done” that Murray was contracted to baseball. To me, the recent shift seems like a bargaining tactic more than anything, as the MLB has given Oakland the green-light to offer Murray even more money to keep him on the diamond.

So, while at the end of the day, yes Joe, it is really up to Kyler. But common sense says his football days should be over.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby served as Managing Editor in the 2018-2019 term.

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