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Murray's selection as the NFL's No. 1 overall pick another historic moment for OU football
The picture was worth a thousand words.
Kyler Murray traveled on a charter airplane to Nashville alongside Lincoln Riley, Bob Stoops and his family on the eve of the biggest day of his life.
One day later, Murray was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the first overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Hugs were shared with his former Oklahoma coaches and family as he took his last steps away from Major League Baseball and his first big steps toward his pro football career.
"I heard a lot of stuff. I read a lot of stuff. But I mean I’m the type that I don't believe anything until it happens," Murray said minutes after he walked across the stage to meet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “It’s definitely where I wanted to go, for sure.”
Oklahoma made history that April night.
When Murray’s name was called, OU became the first school to produce quarterbacks who were selected with the first overall pick in consecutive years. In 2018, Baker Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick taken by the Cleveland Browns.
The only other school to produce consecutive No. 1 overall selections was USC in 1968 (offensive lineman Ron Yary) and 1969 (running back O.J. Simpson).
Eight Oklahoma players had their names called in the first three rounds, a total that is tied for second-most in program history.
Oklahoma is the only program in the country with at least four players selected in the NFL Draft each of the last 12 years.
Imagine Lincoln Riley when he begins his pitch to a prospective recruit these days.
Riley can boast about all the Big 12 championships and Heisman Trophy winners -- Mayfield and Murray -- he's led during his two seasons as head coach. He can talk about the College Football Playoff appearances (three in his four seasons of calling plays for the Sooners).
In Big 12 country, Riley can remind recruits that 95 OU players have been drafted since 2000. That’s 27 more than the next closest conference school (Texas, 68) and 47 more than the second-closest school (TCU, 48).
Murray was the talk of the NFL Draft from the moment he announced in early February that he was bypassing a pro baseball career. He was the first player in history to be drafted in the first round in both baseball (Oakland Athletics, 9th overall) and football (Arizona).
Everything seemed destined for the Murray-Arizona Cardinals marriage.
First-year Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury was among a number of Big 12 coaches -- including former Kansas coach David Beaty and ex-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital -- who threw enormous praise at Murray.
Kingsbury recruited Murray hard to play for him at Texas Tech. When it came time to draft a quarterback to run his offense, there was simply one decision.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said on the day after Murray’s selection. “I’ve seen guys who have thrown it like him. I’ve seen guys who can run it like him. But I can tell you that I haven’t seen anybody that can do the combination that he brings to the table.
“We’re extremely excited about Kyler. He’s a fantastic player. He’s dynamic. Again, in the end, our goal was to take the player that would improve this organization and give us the biggest chance to succeed moving forward. That was Kyler Murray.”
Murray understands the pressure that comes with being the No. 1 overall pick. He has to look no further than his former teammate Mayfield, who has taken the NFL by storm after his rookie season with Cleveland.
Does Murray expect to start turning the team around pretty fast?
“As a kid, that’s what you dream of – going to an organization and being that guy turning the organization around and winning Super Bowls,” said Murray. “Like I said, I don’t shy away from hard work. I’m not here to lose games or go through the motions. I’m here to change things up. I’m ready to go and I can’t wait.”
Murray wasn’t the only Oklahoma player selected in the first round.
Marquise Brown arrived on the OU campus two years ago not even tipping 150 pounds on the scales. But his speed and ability to catch footballs made him an instant threat and it didn’t take long for him to start turning heads with the Sooners.
After a few outstanding games in the 2017 season, Fox Sports play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson gave him the nickname “Hollywood” for two reasons — he’s from Hollywood, Florida, and because of his dynamic playmaking ability.
During his introductory news conference, Brown was asked if he wanted to go by Marquise or Hollywood.
“Hollywood,” Brown answered with a wide grin.
Brown will be reunited with former OU teammates Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown with the Ravens. Offensive lineman Ben Powers was also selected by Baltimore in the 2019 draft.
Perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the weekend was when Brown broke down in tears shortly after being drafted.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Brown. “I told myself I’m not going to cry. I don’t how that happened, but yet, it’s a testament to everything I’ve been through.”
Cody Ford joined Murray and Brown in the NFL Draft’s green room on opening night, but wasn’t a first-round pick. No worries for the impressive offensive lineman, who was a second-round selection by the Buffalo Bills.
“I’m thrilled for Cody,” said Riley. “He had to overcome a ton here at OU with the really bad injury against Ohio State in his first year and then moving positions. He’s one of the nastiest offensive linemen I’ve ever coached, and I think he was probably the most dominant tackle in the country last year.
“Seeing him now as a high-draft pick is amazing. His best ball is in front of him."
Ford was a first-team All-Big 12 honoree and a third-team AP All-American as a redshirt junior in 2018. He was part of an Oklahoma offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award as the nation's best offensive-line unit. Ford started all 14 games at right tackle after playing guard during his previous two seasons.
Ford’s selection ignited the offensive line party, with Bobby Evans (Los Angeles Rams, third round, 97th overall), Dru Samia (Minnesota Vikings, fourth, 114th) and Powers (Ravens, fourth, 123rd) being selected in the first four rounds.
It was the first time since 1988 that four OU offensive linemen were taken in the same draft.
Austin Seibert’s impact on the Sooners was huge during his career handling kickoffs, field goals and punts. His impression left a strong mark on the Cleveland Browns, who selected him in the fifth round with the 170th overall pick.
Seibert’s focus during his professional career will be on kicking. Before the 2019 spring football game, Seibert said he’ll enjoy focusing on only one aspect of special teams instead of handling everything.
“Austin’s been one of our more valuable players the last several years,” said Riley. “It’s really amazing how good he’s been at field goals, kickoffs and punts throughout his career. He’s made big kicks and has had big moments all four years.”
The most intriguing player may be Rodney Anderson (Cincinnati Bengals, sixth round, 211th overall). He only had one healthy season at Oklahoma, but could be considered a steal.
“I don't know if there’s a better story in college football about perseverance and bouncing back,” said Riley. “He’s easily one of the best talents in this draft and I’m thrilled that he was able to be picked. He's going to be able to prove to the Bengals that they made a great decision. He’s a tremendous player and an incredibly dedicated player, and you just really have to appreciate the journey he’s been on.”
For the first time since 1995, Oklahoma didn’t have a defensive player selected, but that won’t dampen the spirit of players who had free-agent deals, like Amani Bledsoe (Tennessee Titans) and Curtis Bolton (Green Bay Packers).
Carson Meier, who had an outstanding senior season, also had a free-agent opportunity with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end, and running back Marcelias Sutton — injured in the second half of last season — is working out with the Seattle Seahawks.
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the June 2019 issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe, call 405-364-4515)