Monday, 10 Dec 2018
Sport

In the heart of Texas, Kyler Murray fans are rooting for an Oklahoma QB to win the Heisman


Kyler Murray needs 108 rushing yards to become just the second player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and run for at least 1,000 yards in a season. (AP Photo / Alonzo Adams)

ALLEN, Tex. – Two landmarks, each unmissable among the otherwise unremarkable suburban landscape, tell you plenty of what you need to know about this place off Highway 75.

The water tower comes first, on your left, a giant eagle painted on its side to you that you're right in the Allen Eagles, the nickname of the lone high school that serves this town some 25 miles north of Dallas, population 100,685 according to census office data from 2017.

Take the exit on the right side of this enormous high school's enormous crown emerges before you: a $ 60-million, 18,000-seat football stadium with a facade of gray and pinkish stone sitting on a 72-acre stud. Eagle Stadium is the state's largest home to one of the world's top 100 teams, has not lost at home since the stadium opened in 2012 and has claimed five state championships in the past decade.

But the greatest moment yet for the Eagles Eagles, and by extension the high school and the town itself, could come Saturday night in New York, if the most important football player in Allen's history wins the Heisman Trophy.

"There's no doubt, everyone in Allen thinks Kyler Murray is very deserving of the Heisman," Allen Athletic Director Steve "Bubba" Williams said. "Kyler's still big talk in Allen."


Murray celebrates after beating Texas for the Big 12 championship. (AP Photo / Jeffrey McWhorter)

Murray, quarterback of the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, is not a big story in Allen; He Mayan one of the best in college football – Oklahoma and last year's Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield.

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He was up staggering statistics along the way this season, passing for 4,035 yards and 40 touchdowns with seven interceptions and has a 205.7 pass rating rating. He needs 108 rushing yards to become just the second player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and run for at least 1,000 yards in a season, after Clemson's Deshaun Watson in 2015. But Murray is most notable for his accurate his or her unrivaled speed, but rather for the fact that college football gets him for just a single season.

After the season, he has a chance to prove himself after transferring from Texas A & M his freshman year, sitting out a year then playing behind Mayfield, Murray is walking away – to play professional baseball.

He signed a $ 4.66 million contract in June to play for the Oakland Athletics, who drafted him the following song. He played baseball for the Sooners in addition to participating in spring football and hit .296 with 46 runs, 10 homers and 47 RBI.

College football fans lament their loss.

Kyler Murray Fans, the ones in Allen who have had three states championships to be cherished and unforgettable. In this suburban outpost, where high school and college football is just as much NFL, Murray's story is perfect as is.

"We're always going to be supportive of anything he wants to go on and do, but we're really proud of the legacy that he left behind," Williams said. "The way he handled it … He went to the next level and proved everybody in Allen that believed in him right."


Murray waits to hit during the fight against the Oakland Athletics. (AP Photo / Jeff Chiu)

Murray's story at Allen's originates with the opening of Eagle Stadium.

The quarterback's first game coincided with the grand opening of that gargantuan stadium, and a standing-room-only crowd of 22,000 came to watch the Eagles play defending Class 5A Division I state champion Southlake Carroll.

Murray, whose family had moved to Allen his sophomore year on a week before fall camp, did not start the game. But he helped the Eagles polish off a 24-0 win in the second half when the starter left because of an injury. He took over the starter in October and never let go.

Allen quickly found itself the subject of national attention, both for its stadium and its quarterback. Murray won all 43 games as a starter.

"He put the spotlight on us in the nation," Williams said.

Murray also gave an already high school football team a stronger identity. His offensive coordinator at the time, Jeff Fleener, who is now the head coach at Mesquite High and remains close to the Murray family, said practices were "ridiculous" during Murray's three years. The quarterback demanded everyone's best effort.

If you were not disciplined, doing exactly what you should, Kyler was going to jump your butt, "Fleener said. "He set the tone. It kind of made the whole team wired that way. "

For that, there are deep wells of gratitude and pride for Murray in Allen. The suburb bears little resemblance to the farming community, but he has never been one of them. With more than 6,000 students, 219 classrooms and a separate building for freshmen, it's big enough for Allen.

"We'll always be a one-high school town," said Paul Coe, Murray's baseball coach at Allen. "Everything revolves around the high school."

And nothing quite captures the community 's attention Allen football.

Murray's legend in high school developed quickly. He became the first player in the history of the Under Armor, and he won the Gatorade Athlete of the Year as a senior.

"When Allen was on offense, you did not go to the concession stand, you did not go to the bathroom, because you could miss whatever Kyler story that people will be telling all year," Fleener said, and this season, people in an otherwise Longhorn-dominating region have become Sooners fans.

Williams had no problem with the Big 12 title game Saturday during Allen's 1 p.m. 6A playoff game because so many people in the pits were streaming it on their phones.

"It's very rewarding for the community to see how it's turned out for this year," Williams said. "He may not have but one year, but he's made the most of that one year. He filled it in very appropriately. "

Watching Murray flourish for Oklahoma in football has been "magic" for people in Allen, as Fleener said, but they know that after this year the reality shifts.

Soon, he will be in Oakland's minor leagues, toiling in crowds than he has grown accustomed to in Allen.

No matter, Fleener said. Nothing can take away what Murray has accomplished, what he means to the community.

And who knows? People in Allen expect Murray will decide to stick with his contract with the A's. But they've learned with Murray, the story never gets worse, and it could get even better. Those who know him best do not count out a return to the gridiron.

"I do not think there's anywhere else he looks more alive, or he's got that spark, than he does when he's on the football field. I think he loves baseball, but football is just where he's got that magic, "Fleener said. I do not know how to answer the question, but I do not know how to answer it, never say never. The worst thing you could ever do is tell Kyler you think he can not do something. That legend will never die. "

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