Denver – When Roger Goodell steps to the podium on Thursday evening to announce the tenth selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos would be ecstatic to get themselves a two-sport athlete the likes we’ve never seen on the Front Range.
Of course, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray seems destined to be selected much earlier and when he does, he’ll become the first athlete to be selected in the first round of two different professional sports.
Murray was the 9th overall pick in the MLB Amateur Draft, taken by the Oakland Athletics in 2018 and signed to a $4,660,000 contract with the American League club, the 7th largest signing bonus in the draft.
The A’s gave Murray the 21-year-old an opportunity to get his final taste of competitive football this past season in the Big 12 before reporting in mid-February to their Spring Training facility in Mesa, AZ.
What Oakland didn’t anticipate was Murray playing better than any other college football player in the country, winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy Award, and vaulting his name onto the list of top players for this year’s NFL Draft, earning even more than the Athletics promised without being relegated to playing in the minor leagues and having to travel by bus for the next few seasons.
If the Broncos do find a way to draft Murray, he won’t be the first two-sport star on the lips of Mile High maniacs.
In 2010, the Colorado Rockies tried their hand at harnessing the athleticism of two such men who played Division 1 college football while also excelling at baseball. Ultimately, one player would pick baseball and the other would pick football.
During the 2010 MLB Draft, Colorado would select Clemson outfielder and starting quarterback Kyle Parker with the 26th overall pick. Though the first rounder would hit at least twenty home runs during his first three years in the minors, he would slug only three home runs in his 64 games in the majors.
In the fourth round that year, the Rockies took NC State quarterback and infielder Russell Wilson with the 140th pick. Wilson would play 93 games in A-ball across two seasons, mainly at second base, and would transfer to Wisconsin for the 2011 college football season, leading the Badgers to the inaugural Big Ten Championship over Michigan State, 42-39.
Wilson would be selected in the 3rd round by Seattle in 2012 NFL Draft, win the Super Bowl XLVIII over Denver the next season, and sign the largest contract in the NFL, currently at 4 years, $140MM.
Though the Rockies’ rights to Wilson eventually got poached by the Texas Rangers in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, he’d later be traded to the New York Yankees where the 5-time Pro Bowl selection made one Spring Training appearance in pinstripes as a pinch hitter in 2018.
Unless Murray does a reverse Drew Henson, who signed a $17MM deal with the Yankees to play baseball only to retire from the sport at 24-years-old and go on to play in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, he’ll likely never play in a ballpark near you if his plan comes to fruition.
If you ask Rockies manager Bud Black about talents of the most notable two-sports stars such as Bo Jackson, his teammate in Kansas City from 1986-88, and Deion Sanders, a man who faced off with Black in many a batter’s box, Murray is still someone to revere.
“Oh my God. It’s super impressive. I’ve never seen Murray play baseball, so I can’t tell, but to even be thought of in that regard speaks volume of the ability and the skill and the athleticism that these guys have. To play two sports at the highest level is special stuff. It really is.”
Other notable two-sports stars to ply their trade in Denver: former Colorado Avalanche Jarome Iginla, who played for the Canadian Junior Baseball Team as a infielder until about the age of 17; Larry Walker of the Rockies, recipient of several offers to play in the Western Hockey League as a youth; and Lonnie Wright of the Nuggets predecessor Denver Rockets, who also played for the Broncos within the same calendar year as his tenure in the ABA.