NFL Draft: Kyler Murray taken No. 1 overall, gives Sooners unprecedented back-to-back feat
Kliff Kingsbury didn’t have to recruit Kyler Murray this time.
And now — finally — the pair are together.
Thursday, Murray became Oklahoma’s second consecutive No. 1 overall pick when Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals took him with the first pick.
“He’s one of the best in the world at calling plays, a great offensive mind,” Murray said on ESPN shortly after the selection. “I can’t wait to get with him. It’s been a long time coming, and I know he feels the same.”
The Sooners became the first program with back-to-back No. 1 picks at the same position. Only USC in 1968-69 had had back-to-back top picks.
Murray follows Baker Mayfield (Browns, 2018), Sam Bradford (Rams, 2008), Billy Sims (Lions, 1980) and Lee Roy Selmon (Buccaneers, 1976) as OU's No. 1 picks in the NFL Draft.
Even as things never quite worked out between Murray and Kingsbury, they kept in touch.
Kingsbury began recruiting Murray when the coach was the offensive coordinator and the quarterback was a sophomore at Allen (Texas) High, just embarking on what was a remarkable high school career.
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Then Kingsbury twice worked to convince Murray to join him at Texas Tech but missed out both times, first as Murray stuck with his Texas A&M commitment and second when Murray decided to transfer instead to Oklahoma.
Even though the Cardinals took Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick a year ago, speculation around Murray to Arizona took off when Kingsbury was hired in early January.
Last October, just before the Sooners played the Red Raiders, Kingsbury spoke glowingly of Murray.
“I'd take him with the first pick in the draft if I could," Kingsbury said then, before any speculation of a coaching move to the NFL had kicked up.
A few months later, Kingsbury could and he did just that.
Still, there were plenty of questions surrounding Murray.
The first was whether he’d play football at all.
He was the No. 9 overall pick in last summer's Major League Baseball Draft and signed a contract with the Oakland A’s.
But in the weeks after his Heisman Trophy-winning season ended, Murray decided to go all-in on football, walking away from a sizable signing bonus.
Then there was the question of his size.
No quarterback as small as Murray had ever been a first-round pick, much less No. 1 overall.
Likewise, quarterbacks in spread offenses had been maligned in NFL circles as products of a system that couldn’t be successful in the league.
The first part was taken care of by the successes of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson in recent years.
The second took longer, but the big seasons put together by Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes last season helped take care of that.
The result was a convergence in which Murray’s measuring out at 5-foot-10 1/8 at the NFL Combine helped him, as did his hand measurement, which put him ahead of Wilson.
“He’s gone through something that no one has ever gone through with the amount of scrutiny in different sports, the hype that he’s had since he was such a young kid,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said in a statement. “To see him get to this moment as the No. 1 pick, that’s been his dream. To see him live this part of it out is awesome.”