It probably won’t sway his final decision. But Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray has one more reminder of just how good a football player he is — or maybe was.
Murray, who is pondering whether fulfill his contract as a first-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics, or to pursue a future in the NFL, is the winner of the 2018 Manning Award, which goes to the nation’s outstanding college quarterback.
The announcement was made Thursday by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which presents the award in honor of the Manning family of quarterbacks — father Archie and sons Peyton and Eli. It is the only quarterback award which takes into consideration the player’s bowl performance.
Murray follows fellow Sooners and Heisman winner Baker Mayfield, making the two the first back-to-back winners from the same school in the 15-year history of the award.
And, like Mayfield, Murray’s college career ended in the CFP semifinals, although his effort in OU’s 45-34 loss to Alabama can hardly be faulted, and instead kept him in the minds of a nationwide media panel which voted on the award despite the accomplishment of fellow finalists Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and Trevor Lawrence of Clemson in the playoffs as well.
Against the Crimson Tide, Murray had 308 passing yards and two touchdowns plus 109 rushing yards and another TD, making him the only quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team. He is only the third Manning winner whose team lost its bowl game.
Oklahoma finished the season, Murray’s only one as a starter, 14-2 and with a fourth straight Big 12 championship.
That semifinal performance, which came in the Orange Bowl, was typical of the numbers put up by Murray last season including 4,361 passing yards with 42 touchdowns and 1,001 yards rushing with 12 more scores.
That made Murray only the second player in FBS history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and rush for at least 1,000 in a season. The other — Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in 2015, the first of his back-to-back Manning-winning seasons.
“Week-in, week-out, Kyler Murray made highlight-reel plays for one of the plays for one of the best teams in the country,” Archie Manning said. “For the Sooners to lose Baker Mayfield and still make the playoffs shows just how touch and talented Kyler really is.
“Kyler also proved to be a great leader, an exceptional athlete and a passer worthy of recognition as the top quarterback in the country this year.”
Murray was not available for comment Thursday. But in a release from the Sugar Bowl, he was quoted as saying, “When it comes to quarterbacks, no family is more accomplished than the Mannings.
“I will cherish the honor the rest of my life.”
Murray’s only others public comment this week has been a tweet that he was declaring for the NFL draft.
That came after a dramatic rise in his stock this season when he overcame a lack of college playing experience and questions about his height (5-foot-10) to become a projected first-round pick.
And that followed the A’s taking Murray, an outfielder, with the ninth pick in last year’s MLB draft despite less than 250 college at-bats.
Murray signed with Oakland for a $4.66 million bonus, a figure that would be eclipsed if he goes in the first round (Lamar Jackson, the final pick in last year’s first round, received $4.99 million) with more guaranteed money over the course of his rookie contract.
However, baseball carries more long term and eventually more lucrative financial rewards.
Murray is reportedly leaning toward football. To stay in baseball, he would have to report to spring training on Feb. 15, which would certainly diminish his draft prospects since he would be unavailable for workouts.
Deion Sanders, who fashioned the best combo baseball/football career of any athlete, is advising Murray to take baseball, citing that his athleticism will overcome the lack of meaningful experience which can be overcome by two of three years in the minors.
But Murray, who would be the first athlete taken in the first round in both the football and baseball drafts (Sanders was a sixth-round baseball pick out of high school and a 30th-rounder out of college), has football ability on his side as well.
This past season, he led the nation in total yards (5,562), points responsible for (324), yards per pass attempt (an FBS record 11.5) and yards-per-completion (16.8). He also ranked second in passing efficiency and passing touchdowns.
Those numbers kept him ahead of Tagovailoa, Lawrence and the other Manning finalists — Ian Book of Notre Dame, Jake Fromm of Georgia, Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, Will Grier of West Virginia, D’Eriq King of Houston, Drew Lock of Missouri, McKenzie Milton of UCF and Gardner Minshew of Washington State when the final votes were cast.
“This young man was one of the most exciting players in the history of college football,” Sugar Bowl president Rod West said. “It is an honor for the bowl to recognize Kyler Murray.”
Manning Award Winners
2004 - Matt Leinart, USC
2005 - Vince Young, Texas
2006 - JaMarcus Russell, LSU
2007 - Matt Ryan, Boston College
2008 - Tim Tebow, Florida
2009 - Colt McCoy, Texas
2010 - Cam Newton, Auburn
2011 - Robert Griffith III, Baylor
2012 - Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
2013 - Jamies Winston, Florida State
2014 - Marcus Mariota, Oregon
2015 - Deshaun Watson, Clemson
2016 - Deshaun, Watson, Clemson
2017 - Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
2018 - Kyler Murray, Oklahoma