NORMAN — Kyler Murray recalls that season three years ago. He can’t believe what a difference time makes.
Coming out of high school, even as a quarterback who never lost a game as the starter at Allen High School (Texas), his situation as a freshman at Texas A&M wasn’t picture-perfect.
Murray’s coach, Kevin Sumlin, was on the back end of a tenure in College Station that ultimately didn’t pan out, and there were grumbles from everywhere about how he’d handled his two quarterbacks in 2015 — both eventually transferred.
Now a redshirt junior nearly 400 miles away from Brazos Valley, Murray was swarmed by reporters after Oklahoma’s practice on Monday. He has a new outlook and a fresh road ahead.
“It’s like night and day,” he said of his freshman season compared to now. “Not as much as the coaches, but myself, just being a freshman, you're worrying about the little things that you can control. You don't really see the big picture.
“But it's my fourth year in. I wish I knew what I knew now then, but obviously you grow, you live and you learn. I'm blessed to be in this position right now.”
Murray hasn’t been a team’s main focal point on the football field since his rookie campaign in Aggieville. It was an up-and-down year in which he shined early, but wound up on the bench with more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5).
A lot has happened since.
He transferred to OU, resurrected his baseball career, earned the backup QB job last season, and when the Oakland Athletics drafted him No. 9 overall in June, his two athletic worlds collided. It has been a maturing experience.
Assuming this is Murray’s final season playing college football and that he joins the A’s in January — “right now, I’m going to play baseball,” he said — then he has one more autumn to prove he can start an entire season at quarterback. He must first outplay redshirt sophomore teammate Austin Kendall in fall camp to win OU’s job.
That’s nothing new, Murray said, before recalling QB competitions in middle school, high school, then college, where Kyle Allen was his counterpart. Even Murray’s time playing behind OU’s Heisman Trophy quarterback Baker Mayfield helped shape him for this critical season.
“Obviously, we weren’t competing,” Murray said. “But for me, I showed up every day to compete.”
Murray rarely exhibits excitement around media and speaks quietly, but says his low-key confidence dates back to childhood. It was a necessary trait for someone who still stands only 5 feet, 11 inches tall, which is one of the slights analysts attach to him. Like Mayfield, he isn’t a broadened 6-foot-4 prototypical quarterback.
“If the quarterback knows where they need to put the ball, then height has nothing to do with it,” OU sophomore receiver CeeDee Lamb said. “Look at Russell Wilson, he’s 6-foot, if not 5-11. Drew Brees, he can’t even see over his o-line and he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL.
“Height has nothing to do with it in my eyes. A great quarterback’s gonna be a great quarterback no matter what.”
Murray completed 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns last season. His longest run — 66 yards — was OU’s second-longest all season.
Now's his a chance to prove he can be that efficient, but every Saturday. Any leftover immaturity from high school has faded. He gets daily opportunities to work with first-team receivers. He isn’t participating in baseball workouts, which at times slowed his performance in spring ball back in March.
“[If] I work hard and do my job,” Murray said, “I feel like I’ll be in a good position.”
Classes begin: August 20
Season opener: Sat., Sept. 1 vs. Florida Atlantic, 11 a.m. FOX
Big 12 opener: Sat., Sept. 15 at Iowa State, 11 a.m., ESPN/ABC networks