Murray's gamble off to flying start

A's 2018 first-rounder goes No. 1 overall in 2019 NFL Draft

Kyler Murray became the first athlete to ever be selected in the first rounds of both the MLB and NFL Drafts. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | April 25, 2019 9:38 PM

When Kyler Murray decided to choose football over baseball, he did so hoping his path to the NFL would be quicker, not to mention much more lucrative. The final verdict on his choice won't be clear for some time, but his initial gamble appears to have paid off.

Less than a year after being selected ninth overall by the A's in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, Murray was chosen by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday. He was the first athlete to be selected in the first round of both the NFL and MLB Drafts.

The 21-year-old seemed primed to begin his baseball career after signing a $4.6 million deal with Oakland, which included the stipulation he'd be allowed to play football collegiately with the University of Oklahoma in 2018. His diamond dreams became murky after he beat out Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa for the Heisman Trophy in December, leading many pundits to believe Murray had a legitimate chance at being the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

With the pull of money and a quicker path to the pros edging him toward the gridiron, Murray had to choose where he'd be going in February -- Spring Training or the NFL Combine. The decision wasn't much of a surprise.

"Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback," Murray tweeted in February. "Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100 percent of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships."

His decision to forgo a chance at baseball -- at least for now -- meant the Texas native was forced to return $3.16 million to the A's, including $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus he received. While Oakland receives no compensatory pick in this June's Draft for losing Murray to football, they will retain his professional baseball rights should he decide to return to the diamond down the road.

2019 MiLB include

Murray completed 69 percent of his pass attempts during his junior season at Oklahoma and threw for 42 touchdown passes while rushing for 12 more. In addition to his Heisman selection, the former outfielder earned the Davey O'Brien Award as the top quarterback in college football and was named the AP Player of the Year and the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year.

Murray will head to football without ever seeing a pitch as a pro baseball player.

"It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid," Murray said on ESPN's NFL Draft broadcast after his selection. "All the hard work, everyone who's been in my corner who has pushed me to get here, I can't thank them enough. I thank God. This is surreal."

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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