How Kyler Murray Went From Chess Champ To Heisman Winner

Kyler Murray grew up winning, first with chess matches and later the Heisman trophy as the best player in college football. He went on to make an immediate impact with the NFL with his impressive combination of speed and accuracy at the quarterback position. In his rookie season, he became just the second quarterback after Cam Newton to record at least 3,500 passing yards and over 500 rushing yards in his first year in the league. For his performances, Murray was awarded the 2019 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The following season, Murray was part of one of the most electrifying moments ever in the NFL when he threw a game-winning touchdown pass with only 11 seconds left in a game against the Buffalo Bills. A video of the play shows Murray scramble to avoid defenders and heave the football in a "Hail Mary" throw 50 yards to his receiver DeAndre Hopkins, which became known as the "Hail Murray."

While he's led his team to some incredible victories, Murray could have easily been the biggest star in another sport. As for football, he's faced his fair share of backlash and has navigated the pressure and high expectations that come from playing in the quarterback position. Through all the noise, both from fans and from haters, Murray's eye stays on the prize. "I want to be the greatest to ever play. That's always been my mentality," he told The New York Times.

This is the untold truth of Kyler Murray.

Kyler Murray grew up with sports

From a young age, Kyler Murray was active in sports and showed potential to be a future star. He definitely had some help from good genes. His uncle Calvin Murray played for MLB and was memorably at bat when pitcher Randy Johnson hit a bird with the baseball, USA Today recapped. His cousin Devin Duvernay became a wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, per PennLive. Kyler's dad, Kevin Murray, was a former quarterback for Texas A&M University and signed a deal to play professional baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers. Football remained Kevin's biggest passion and he became a quarterback coach in Texas but perhaps his biggest accomplishment was coaching Kyler from a young age. "When he was nine, he was already reading spread offenses, processing and throwing," Kevin told The Dallas Morning News about his son. "When he was 10, it was pretty obvious at that point that he was something special."

The future NFL star explained the impact Kevin had on his career in sports. "My dad gave me a big head start by coaching me and teaching me," Kyler told Bleacher Report. "And now I really feel like I can't be stopped. ... I'm confident." Kyler was also disciplined in his childhood, putting his dreams of sports stardom above all else. "In order to get there, going out and doing drugs, none of that was for me. I've never smoked in my life," he told The New York Times.

Kyler Murray's big gambit

A surprising fact about Kyler Murray is that he was a chess champion in elementary school. Michael Staten, a science teacher at his grade school, first introduced the game of strategy to Murray. Soon after, Staten convinced Murray to join the school's chess team. "I took pride in it, for sure, just because I take pride in everything I do," Murray told ESPN about playing chess and often winning. He considered himself an athlete at the time, and he got a kick out of subverting expectations. "[W]e were coming in, beating the guys that you would call — I don't call them nerds, but the guys that are supposed to be smarter than us," he recalled. This competitive side continued with Murray as he progressed in sports and he used this strategic thinking to his advantage.

Even after he became a big NFL star, Murray still enjoyed playing chess against strangers with the game Chess with Friends. He also played with a physical board against teammates; in 2020, he tweeted a photo of a chess match and the caption, "Anytime anyplace." A few of his teammates participated in an online chess tournament but Murray was not on the roster. When the quarterback asked on Twitter if it was too late to sign up, his teammate Larry Fitzgerald replied, "I asked them not to let you in, so some other people can win at a few things in life."

A high school experience like no other for Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray began his school career in Lewisville, Texas, but before his sophomore year, he left Lewisville High and went to Allen High School. "I wanted my son in an environment where he was challenged academically and athletically," Murray's dad told The Dallas Morning News. At his new school, Murray loved staying active like when he played in a student and teacher dodgeball tournament. He also joined the football team as the backup quarterback, though Murray knew the starting job was in reach. "I've always had confidence in my abilities," he told USA Today.

Murray played his first game at the grand opening of the school's new Eagle Stadium. After the starting quarterback left the game due to an injury, Murray received the call to take his place. The team won the game against the defending state champions and soon after, the team named Murray as the starting quarterback. He never lost. Incredibly, Murray went 43-0 as a starter for the Allen High School Eagles. In his senior year from 2014 to 2015, Murray earned the title of Gatorade National Player of the Year.

Reflecting on what it was like to go undefeated in high school and winning three consecutive state championships, Murray said it was a special time of his life. "I wish every kid could experience what I got to experience in high school ... it was really a movie for me," he told ESPN.

Inside Kyler Murray's Texas roots

Even before he graduated high school, teams couldn't wait to bring on Kyler Murray. As the number one ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country, that is, with an ability to both run and pass, it was a battle in Texas to see where Murray would end up playing college football. Following his dad's footsteps, Murray chose to attend Texas A&M University but not before creating quite a stir. Weeks before he needed to make a final commitment, Murray posted on Twitter a photo of his jersey number in orange and white — the school colors of the University of Texas at Austin. Murray then confirmed his decision to play for Texas A&M, ESPN recapped. Outside of his home state, Murray also passed on offers for Oregon and Oklahoma.

Murray came in with huge potential but he didn't make an immediate splash with the football program. He only started three games as a freshman and played in a total of eight games. Another reason he went to Texas A&M was to play on the school's baseball team. In order to be eligible to play, Murray removed himself from the MLB draft. It seemed Murray was preparing to go all in with the Aggies until he shocked the university and explained he would be transferring. Sources claimed Murray didn't have faith in the direction of the school's football program and where he would fit in as quarterback as reasons he decided to leave, ESPN reported.

The special times for Kyler Murray in Oklahoma

Kyler Murray looked for a fresh start after transferring from Texas A&M University to the University of Oklahoma to join the Sooners football program. In his first year with the team, Murray didn't get a chance to start because he was the backup behind Baker Mayfield, the star quarterback under new head coach Lincoln Riley. Similar to Murray, Mayfield was himself a transfer to Oklahoma, first playing college football with Texas Tech. Murray couldn't compete with Mayfield at the time and in fact, no one could because Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy that year. The following year, Murray became the starting quarterback.

Another star on the Oklahoma campus was basketball player Trae Young. In fact, Young met his fiancée in Oklahoma. "I've been hyping Trae up for years now," Murray told ESPN. The quarterback fondly remembered seeing Young on campus and watching him play basketball, both at school and later in the NBA. Young also hyped up Murray. For people who questioned Murray's abilities due to his less-than-average height in football, Young said he faced similar questions in the NBA but championed his fellow Sooner. "I've seen him up close and personal — he's legit," Young told The New York Times.

After Murray graduated, he showed that once a Sooner always a Sooner. He posted a heartfelt note on Twitter sending condolences to the family of Oklahoma football player Du'Vonta Lampkin who died from a gunshot wound in 2022, the New York Post reported.

How Kyler Murray secured the Heisman

Kyler Murray began his 2018 season with the Oklahoma Sooners with almost impossible expectations set by his predecessor, Baker Mayfield. The team went 12-2 and made it to the College Football Playoff with Murray as quarterback, the same result as the year before, SB Nation recapped. In his 14 games with the Sooners, Murray set multiple records like becoming a rare player in the NCAA with over 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season.

Going up against two other quarterbacks, Murray won the Heisman Trophy for his tremendous season. "This is an honor. Something that I'll never forget, something that I'll always cherish for the rest of my life," Murray said in his acceptance speech. It was almost a lifetime of dedication that led the quarterback to the prestigious award. "This didn't just happen, I've put so much time and effort into this game," Murray explained at a news conference, per The New York Times. Following the victory, Murray's old teammate Mayfield contacted him for advice on how to handle the big moment. "He just told me to enjoy it. Have fun with it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal," Murray explained. It was the first time in college football history where the same school had back-to-back quarterbacks win the Heisman trophy. Due to his impressive performance on the school's baseball team at the same time, Bleacher Report called him the greatest two-sport athlete since Bo Jackson in the late '80s.

Kyler Murray plays many types of games

While many people  aspire to be like the professional athletes they're controlling in video games, Kyler Murray showed he could dominate in real and virtual sports. In 2021, Murray made the cover of SI as part of the FaZe Clan, an esports organization. The group enlisted Murray as a FaZe Athlete alongside LeBron James' son Bronny James. "Why did I join FaZe? Because it's the best of the best," Murray stated. He believed in the company so much that he began the process of becoming an investor, similar to part-owners like Olympic skateboarder Nyjah Huston and Cardi B's husband Offset. "I tell people all the time, if I didn't play sports I think I'd be a pro gamer," Murray told Forbes. Among his favorite games to play were first person shooter Call of Duty and obviously Madden NFL. Joining FaZe helped boost Murray's already impressive reputation in the gaming world. As of August 2022, Murray has 86.8 thousand followers on Twitch, the video game live streaming service.

"I've been playing video games my whole life. It's just something I love to do off the field. ... That's just my chill space," Murray said in a 2021 chat with ESPN. Some fans have worried about Murray's gaming and how it may or may not impact his football playing, according to his personal stats. A Reddit user summarized that Murray's on field performance was below average on the same weekends as promotional Call of Duty double XP weekends.

The other sport Kyler Murray excels at

When he enrolled at Texas A&M, Kyler Murray intended to play football but also to join the school's baseball program. Murray never played a game of baseball in his time at the Texas school but after transferring, he joined the Oklahoma Sooners baseball team and played for two seasons in 2017 and 2018, per SI. In his second year with the program, Murray put up impressive hitting numbers on the baseball diamond, which caught the attention of professional teams.

The Oakland Athletics drafted Murray as the number nine pick in the 2018 MLB draft and gave him a $4.66 million signing bonus. Part of the deal was that Murray wanted to play one more season of football at Oklahoma before starting with Oakland. It just so happened that Murray absolutely dominated the season, won the Heisman, and attracted many NFL scouts who felt he should play professional football instead. At the time, Murray said he had no intention to change his mind. "I feel like I could play in the NFL, but as far as giving it up, as of now, yeah, that's the plan," Murray told ESPN. Though he ended up quitting the A's to play football, he was grateful for his MLB experience and told ESPN (via Saturday Down South) that he missed playing. "Obviously, I got to fulfill my dream of being drafted to the MLB, but I would love to put the spikes on and play again," he said.

Details of Kyler Murray's contract issues

Few people would complain about signing a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, when Kyler Murray signed a five-year extension worth $230.5 million to continue playing for the Arizona Cardinals in 2022, the biggest talking point was not the cost but rather a specific clause in the fine print. The team was essentially requiring Murray to do homework. Per the NFL, the addendum read, "Player shall complete at least four (4) hours of Independent Study each week ... (excluding any bye week) during each Playing Season ... during the term of the Contract."

In response, Murray quickly arranged a press conference to address the intense media discussion around the contract. The quarterback believed the clause questioned his seriousness and dedication. "It's disrespectful and it's almost a joke," he said. "I've put in an incomprehensible amount of time, blood, sweat, tears, and work into what I do." In case anyone needed a refresher on his level of work ethic, Murray also reminded the audience that he once prepared for both high level baseball and football. Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes pointed out he and other Black quarterbacks in the league seem to face these types of criticisms, per ESPN.

Per sportswriter Adam Schefter, the Cardinals then released a statement that said, "After seeing the distraction it created, we removed the addendum from the contract." The team added, "Our confidence in Kyler Murray is as high as it's ever been."

Here's how Kyler Murray handles criticism

After he decided to enter the NFL draft, Kyler Murray faced many doubters despite his stellar college football experience. While one draft analyst believed Murray's raw talent would help the footballer overcome his short stature, they told The New York Times, "The N.F.L. hasn't had a 5-10 or shorter quarterback have sustained success in a long time." ESPN star Stephen A. Smith felt Murray was too short to justify the Arizona Cardinals choosing the quarterback as the first choice in the NFL draft. In the same ESPN segment, commentator Max Kellerman was also unconvinced at Murray's potential and believed that other future NFL quarterbacks like Dwayne Haskins seemed like a more traditional pick.

Though he proved them wrong, once Murray began playing, questions started to surface about his relationship with the Cardinals and attitude towards playing football. ESPN analyst Chris Mortensen tweeted, "Murray is described as self-centered, immature and finger pointer ... and was embarrassed by playoff loss to Rams and thinks he's been framed as the scapegoat." The father of Murray's teammate Larry Fitzgerald called the QB's humility into question on Twitter.

Murray responded on Twitter with a statement, writing, "All of this nonsense is not what I'm about, never has been, never will be." The NFL star reiterated that he plays to win, puts in maximum effort, and concluded, "Love me or hate me but I'm going to continue to grow and get better."

Kyler Murray's social media drama

In the midst of potential contention between Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, the quarterback not-so-subtly threw shade on social media towards his team. In addition to unfollowing the official Cardinals Instagram and Twitter accounts, he deleted all Instagram posts that referenced the team, per the New York Post. For a brief time, only photos of him playing in the NFL pro bowl and winning the Heisman remained. After about a month, he then reposted all 371 of the original photos, Cards Wire reported. Fans wondered what exactly this move meant and if Murray was perhaps done with the Cardinals. After reporters asked Murray how it felt to be trending in the offseason for potential drama with the Cardinals, Murray assured fans he was still with the team. When asked if he scrubbed the account on purpose, Murray explained people his age do similar social media moves all the time. "I took everything off besides one picture so it had nothing to do with the Cardinals," Murray told sports reporter Mark McClune.

This wasn't the first time Murray landed in hot water for his social media comments. Following his Heisman Trophy win, since-deleted tweets containing homophobic language from Murray emerged, per Yahoo! Sports. "I apologize for the tweets that have come to light tonight from when I was 14 and 15. I used a poor choice of word that doesn't reflect who I am or what I believe," Murray wrote in a Twitter post.

Kyler Murray talks about his heritage

Kyler Murray comes from a multicultural family. His dad is Black and his mom is half Black and half Korean, and he is equally proud of both sides of the family. "More so for me, being Korean, being Asian is a big deal for me to show that I'm not just African American, I'm both, so I represent both sides," Murray told ESPN. His idol growing up was superstar martial artist Bruce Lee, and he's embraced channeling the movie star on game days. "Bruce's philosophies, it kind of mellows you out. ... It just kind of gives you a sense of confidence and, like I said, it calms the mental down for me," he said.

The quarterback's maternal grandfather served for the United States and his grandmother was from South Korea. "I guess maybe I'll take my mom someday. She seems to be interested in doing that," Murray told USA Today about one day visiting his grandma's home country. The quarterback still showed his support to his heritage after becoming a pro. As B/R Kicks tweeted, he has been spotted wearing the South Korean soccer jersey.

Following a wave of hate crimes in the U.S. directed towards Asian Americans in 2021, Murray joined other celebrities and took a stand on Twitter. "My condolences and prayers to those who have lost loved ones unnecessarily. I don't understand the hate," he wrote and encouraged all to #StopAsianHate.

The truth about Kyler Murray's love life

While attending the University of Oklahoma, Kyler Murray was clearly the big man on campus with his stellar performance on the field. Yet, in his personal life, the quarterback was secretive about any romantic relationships. Murray's social media accounts provided no clues to any significant other and he appeared to enter the 2019 NFL draft as an eligible bachelor, according to Heavy.

The only time he ever mentioned a girlfriend was as a metaphor to why he left playing baseball with the Oakland Athletics to instead play football. "It was definitely tough. It's not like breaking up with a girlfriend, but it was hard to have that conversation for sure," Murray told a Dallas radio station about his MLB departure, via The Dallas Morning News. Then in 2021, it appeared Murray was linked up with Morgan LeMasters. The two had reportedly been dating for over a year, per BlackSportsOnline. Not much is known about LeMasters except that she used to be a cheerleader and attended Allen High School, the same as Murray, as seen on her Facebook page.

Though he has been quiet about information surrounding his girlfriend, some felt their relationship affected his duties as quarterback. Cardinals sports writer Chuck Harris tweeted, "during halftimes, Kyler Murray is known to sit at his locker and call his girlfriend or put his earbuds in and isolate himself from the team." However, one source called this a "flat-out lie," sports editor Kyle Odegard tweeted.

The charitable side of Kyler Murray

For as long as he's been a professional quarterback, Kyler Murray has been using his resources to help others. He helped donate $10,000 to the Arizona Educational Foundation in 2022, giving back to the state that became his second home after the Arizona Cardinals drafted him. After presenting the donation, he even played trivia host at the event, according to Cards reporter Darren Urban. "They allowed me to give back to the community and that's huge for me," Murray said at the event, per The Arizona Republic. "I just want to thank the Arizona Educational Foundation and all their hard work. I've had great coaches, teachers, and just women, men that have helped me through my life," he added. On the very same day, Murray gave a separate $10,000 check to the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley in Arizona.

Per Arizona Sports, Murray told reporters he's committed to using his platform to do good in the state where he was raised as well as the state where he became an NFL star. "But just being able to give back to everybody, anybody that I can impact, be able to shed light on them and support these people," he said. The quarterback certainly never forgot about Texas and once donated 60,000 meals to a food bank in the state, ESPN reported. For Oklahoma, where he attended college, Murray pledged $25,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund, he posted on Twitter.

Here's how much Kyler Murray is really worth

As of 2022, Kyler Murray was worth an estimated $40 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He also signed a lucrative five-year extension with the Arizona Cardinals in 2022 worth $230.5 million. With his huge NFL contract, Murray was free to spend more money on things he enjoyed. Even back when he was in high school, Murray had a particular affinity for shoes. "It's pretty bad. Well, it's a passion, not an addiction. After all, I think I deserve it," he joked to USA Today.

Unselfishly, Murray developed a reputation for his gift-giving skills. Starting from his first year as an NFL pro, he began giving Christmas gifts to his offensive linemen. After all, these big guys are the ones protecting him from getting hit by the opposing team. In his rookie year, Murray gifted them all custom Phat electric scooters. The cost was fat too — the classic Phat model in 2022 retailed for over $3,000. The following year, Murray went artsy and gave the linemen painted portraits. The team posted a photo on Twitter of all the guys holding their paintings. During the holiday season in 2021, the Cardinals offensive line received custom golf bags with their football numbers on it and 13 fitted golf clubs each. The presents cost a reported $5,000 each, per TMZ. As if this wasn't generous enough, Golf reported each player also received shirts, hats, and a customized bottle of Cincoro, Michael Jordan's tequila brand. Not a bad haul.