The Oakland A’s selected Kyler Murray with the ninth pick in the June draft, but the game plan for the Oklahoma centerfielder / quarterback was to chase a national football crown and a Heisman Trophy before taking a swing at pro baseball.
Murray found himself playing from behind in the bid to claim the college game’s most famed individual prize. Tua Tagovailoa announced his arrival when he took over at quarterback for Alabama in the second half of last season’s national title game and kept on rolling this season as the starter for an undefeated, top-ranked team.
The sophomore lefthander established himself as the perceived Heisman favorite until he stumbled right before the finish line. He turned over the favorite designation to Murray, who showed a considerable closing kick.
When the Heisman results were announced Saturday night at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square, it was Murray’s trophy.
Tagovailoa finished second and Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins came in a distant third.
“This is crazy,” said Murray, a redshirt junior. “Man, this is an honor, something that I’ll never forget, something I’ll always treasure the rest of my life.”
It marked the first time quarterbacks from the same college won in consecutive years. Murray backed up Baker Mayfield. “It is extremely special,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said.
Murray was on 92.03 percent of the ballots, which stands third all-time. He received 517 first-place votes to Tagovailoa’s 299 and 2,167 votes to Tagovailoa’s 1,871, a record for a runner-up.
Murray is the nation’s leader in total yards (4,945), points responsible (306) and passing efficiency (205.7). He has thrown for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns, including 743 yards and six TDs in those last two games, and ran for 892 yards and 11 scores.
His emotions showed when he thanked Riley, telling him, “You pushed me harder than any coach ever has.”
The Texas native is scheduled to go to spring training with the A’s after batting .296 with 10 homers, 47 RBIs and 10 steals in 51 games last season and signing for $4.66 million. “As of right now, everybody knows the plan,” Murray said.
But will he stick with the plan or give up baseball for football? He’s listed at 5-10, but he’s fast and accurate. He will see how he’s perceived by the NFL. Perhaps the dual threat in football can try a dual-sport run as a pro.
“If it was an option, I’d be open to doing it,” he said. “But it’s kind of like a fake thing that people outside of it bring it up.”
Tagovailoa has thrown for 3,353 yards and a school-record 37 TDs with only four interceptions. He suffered a left ankle injury against Georgia in the first quarter of the SEC title game and struggled, going 10-for-25 and throwing two interceptions before being KO’d in the fourth quarter by a right ankle injury.
The Hawaii native had arthroscopic surgery on the left one and said his recovery is going well. He’s out of his walking boot and is expected to be ready when the Tide (13-0) plays their College Football Playoff semifinal against Murray and No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29.
Don’t look for Heisman regrets from Tagovailoa regarding that last game.
“Unfortunately, I threw two interceptions and I got hurt — both my ankles,” he said. “That’s just how the ball rolls sometimes.”
Haskins has passed for 4,580 yards and 47 TDs. Both totals lead the nation. He said, “It’s a blessing to be considered a finalist.”