Heisman Trophy Cements Kyler Murray as Greatest 2-Sport Athlete Since Bo Jackson

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystDecember 9, 2018

Kyler Murray
Kyler MurrayMike Stobe/Getty Images

Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is your 2018 Heisman Trophy winner.

He had a fantastic season, guiding the Sooners to a 12-1 record and a spot in the College Football Playoff. He accounted for 4,945 yards and 51 touchdowns, and he did it all with a level of efficiency that was even greater than the historic marks Baker Mayfield set one year ago while at Oklahoma.

Though both Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins had sensational campaigns, the Heisman voters got this one right: Murray was the best, most important college football player in the country this season.

Now, who wants to talk about baseball?

As you may have heard a few hundred times over the past six months, the Oakland Athletics selected Murray with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. This came with a signing bonus of nearly $5 millionwhich made for quite the interesting amateurism dilemma as Murray got paid a ton of money while playing NCAA football.

If he wanted to, Murray could've gone the MLB route four years ago, as he was regarded as a potential first-round prospect straight out of high school in 2015. He was just more interested in pursuing his 5-star status in football at the time and wasn't yet ready to commit to one sport.

Murray is an outstanding center fielder, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise after several months of watching him shine on the gridiron. His footwork and acceleration are second to none, and his vision and quick decision-making skills are right up there, as well. Despite not focusing entirely on baseball, he batted just a shade under .300, belted 10 home runs and stole 10 bases this past spring for the Sooners.

Make that guy a full-time ballplayer and extrapolate his numbers to a 162-game season, and you're talking 30-30 potential, easily.

Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

But once Oklahoma's time in the College Football Playoff ends, there are two questions we'll all ask for the next several months:

  1. Does Murray want to fully commit to baseball?
  2. Which NFL team will draft him in April, you know, just in case?

Because if he plays both sports, he just might give "Tecmo Bo" Jackson a run for his money as the greatest two-sport athlete of all time.

There have been some outstanding players of that ilk over the years. Vic Janowicz won the 1950 Heisman before he spent time in both the NFL and MLB. Charlie Ward won the 1993 Heisman before he became a first-round draft pick in the NBA and spent more than a decade in the Association. And while Deion Sanders didn't win a Heisman, "Prime Time" spent 14 years in the NFL and nine seasons in Major League Baseball.

But all conversations about two-sport athletes eventually find their way back to Jackson.

He won the 1985 Heisman and was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft the following April. He was also a fourth-round pick in the MLB draft that year and pursued both careers. He was an MLB All-Star for the Kansas City Royals in 1989 and was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl as a member of the Oakland Raiders in 1990the only athlete ever named an All Star in two of the "big four" sports.

It's hardnay, impossibleto physically compare Jackson to Murray. The former was a 225-pound bruiser with the pigskin and a slugger with the bat; the latter might be 200 pounds soaking wet and is more of a shifty speedster who could have a Sanders-like longevity in both sports because of his ability to avoid hard hits.

But in terms of the ability to almost single-handedly propel their football teams to victory, it's not hard to see the resemblance.

Bo Jackson
Bo JacksonBeth Keiser/Associated Press

When Jackson won his Heisman, he was Auburn's entire team. He rushed for over 1,000 more yards than the team's next-leading rusher, and he rushed for 1,000 more yards than the Tigers' top quarterback had passing yards. If not for his heroics, it's hard to imagine that 8-4 Auburn squad would've won more than maybe three games.

Same goes for Murray, who had to be near-perfect all season to make up for Oklahoma's dreadful defense.

Selfishly, I hope that's not where the similarities end. I want Murray to keep playing football, if only to watch it all unfold in the era of social media.

Since Sanders retired from MLB in 2001 (and last played in the NFL in 2005), no one has legitimately pursued professionally playing two sports at the same timeunless you count Russell Wilson's ill-fated minor league baseball career in 2010 and 2011 and his subsequent occasional appearances at spring training.

But if Murray could simultaneously (and successfully) play both baseball and football, it might break Twitter on a weekly basis.

It'd be much more than just a publicity stunt, though. Murray is one of the most gifted athletes in recent history, and it's incredible that he was able to emerge from the era of year-round, one-sport specialization as a multifaceted star. He could thrive in either sport, or both.

And if the Oakland A's want to keep a close eye on him while he plays football, let's just say the Oakland Raiders could use a guy like Murray at quarterback. And suiting up for the Raiders would mean one more commonality for Jackson and Murray to share.


Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.


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