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teammates and coaches. If you’re not in the circle

Time:2018-11-07 04:59Shoes websites Click:

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Some call them the “circle of trust.” Others call them the “inner family.”

Kyler Murray calls them “his people.”

Those “people” are the ones who know him best. They’re the ones who have seen him behind the wall that so many of us have caught ourselves climbing just to get a peek into the life of the dual-sport phenomenon. Murray has knowingly, and wisely, shielded himself from the outside noise, keeping those closest to him by his side. These aren’t the people who know his 42-0 high school record or the ones who know he’s just as good at football as he is at baseball or even the ones who know he drives a white Chevy Camaro and his favorite rap artist is Drake.

No, these are the people who had a locker next him, who caught his first passes from him, who were the first to find out Oklahoma would be his new temporary home, who hugged him after his first loss as a starter and who know what his future may hold.

So when I called Steele Walker, who has known Murray since he was 12, to ask what he knew about the quarterback who everyone wants to think they know, he summed up Murray’s mysterious journey to greatness in the simplest of ways.

“He’s hard to get to know,” Walker chuckled. “If you know him, you know him. You know?”

No, Steele. I don’t know.

Few do. Here’s what they say:

Read the story on our projects site here. 

Meet the cast

Ryan Hoogerwerf

The back-up quarterback at Allen High School from 2012-14; also played baseball at Allen and continued his baseball career at the University of Portland from 2014-17 (Allen HS, class of 2014).

Oliver Pierce

Allen’s starting quarterback for the first five games of the 2012 season; went onto wrestle at Arizona State University(Allen HS, class of 2013).

Mayomi Olootu Jr.

Starting cornerback for Allen from 2012-13; played football at Northern Illinois from 2014-17 (Allen HS, class of 2014).

Cole Carter

Starting wide receiver at Allen from 2012-13; played baseball at West Virginia before transferring to play at Texas A&M Corpus Christi (Allen HS, class of 2014).

Jalen Guyton

Starting wide receiver at Allen from 2013-14; had 82 receptions for 1,770 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior; currently a sophomore wide receiver at North Texas (Allen HS, class of 2015).

Tejan Koroma

Starting center at Allen from 2012-13; continued his career at BYU as a four-year starter from 2014-17; currently on the injured reserve for Kansas City (Allen HS, class of 2014).

Chad Adams

Starting corner for Allen from 2012-13; continued his career as a safety at Arizona State from 2014-17(Allen HS, class of 2014).

Jeff Fleener

Offensive coordinator at Allen from 2006-15; currently the head coach at Mesquite High School in Dallas.

Tom Westerberg

Head coach at Allen from 2004-15 where he posted a 148-17 record; currently the head coach and athletics director at Barbers High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

Lincoln Riley

Offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2015-17; currently the head coach at Oklahoma.

Steele Walker

Played baseball at Prosper High School (Prosper, Texas) from 2011-15; also played on same travel team as Murray since the age of 12; continued career at University of Oklahoma from 2016-18; was drafted No. 46 overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 2018 MLB Draft.

Lee Morris

Wide receiver at Allen from 2011-15; walked on at the University of Oklahoma in 2015; recently earned a scholarship as a redshirt junior (Allen HS, class of 2015).

Bobby Evans

Offensive tackle and tight end at Allen from 2011-15; currently Oklahoma’s starting left tackle; has started every game for OU the past two seasons (Allen HS, class of 2015).

Chapter 1: Kyler the competitor

Summer of 2012: Ryan Hoogerwerf and Oliver Pierce have heard the rumors — there’s a new kid in town. But neither of them expected what they saw on a hot summer day during a workout at Curtis Middle School in Allen, Texas.

Ryan Hoogerwerf: We were doing some seven-on-seven work and had heard about this new kid that was supposed to be really good.

Oliver Pierce: I was originally a wide receiver, but moved to quarterback my senior year. I was the expected starter.

Murray was transferring to Allen after spending his freshman year at Lewisville. Everyone expected Oliver to be the starter and Ryan to replace him a year later.

Hoogerwerf: It was an all-out brawl for that starting spot.

Cole Carter: We had been around some good quarterbacks before, so I’m thinking this guy can’t be anything too great.

Jalen Guyton: He was a new face in the program. I didn’t think much of him — he was really quiet at first.

Pierce: He was scrawny, man.

Kyler was no bigger than 5-foot-9, 170 pounds at the time.

Hoogerwerf: Then he threw the ball.

Carter: He almost ripped someone’s head off.

Bobby Evans: I’ve never seen anyone throw the ball like that.

Mayomi Olootu Jr.: I was like, “Woah, that dude can throw.”

Pierce: I thought, “Oh shit, this kid can throw. I’m going to have to ball out.”

Hoogerwerf: I was super annoyed at first. I was like, “Well crap, there go my playing hopes.”

Chad Adams: It was the elephant in the room … Kyler was going to be the guy.

Pierce: I went back to receiver after a few games.

Pierce started the first five games of Murray’s sophomore season, but after a loss to Coppell High School, Murray became the starter in game six. His ability to cut up defenses both through the air and on the ground made him one of the best players in the state.

Hoogerwerf: It was me and (Pierce) going back and forth for that job … But then Kyler just exposed his true talent and so we obviously moved him, and it clearly treated us well.

Coach Jeff Fleener: You see a great a player and he just takes it to a whole other level. He plays a different game than everybody else.

Guyton: The first time I caught the ball from him, I knew he was different. He was coming at a different pace.

Pierce: Everyone talks about how he can run, but he was taught his entire life how to throw the football. He can flat spin it. He’s the total package.

Hoogerwerf: You forget that anyone else is in the stadium. It’s like you’re just watching Kyler … He does things that make you forget that there’s anyone else around you.

Coach Tom Westerberg: There were games where we were blowing people out and then there were games we were down in the fourth quarter where he would just take over … When people know he’s going to work, and things weren’t going our way, he’d just say ‘all right, let’s get it done.’ Everyone expected him to make plays, and he did.”

Murray was an anomaly growing up, not because he played football and baseball, but because of the level he was able to perform at in both. It was always easy to him. There was seemingly nothing he couldn’t do.

Carter: He would be sleeping two minutes before a game, wake up and hit a home run in his first at-bat.

Hoogerwerf: Rather than a state of jealousy or state of anger, it became a state of awe. It was so much fun to watch him. I was watching greatness.

Pierce: He was just a pup his sophomore year — he took off his junior year. Just the way he carried himself, you were like, “Damn. This kid is going to be special.”

Hoogerwerf: He’s not going to settle for anything less. He’s going to be No. 1. 

Tejan Koroma: Kyler is the best at everything he does. It’s that simple.

While everyone tends to focus on the athlete Murray has become, it’s video games, according to friends, where he really shines.

Guyton: Anything he does, he does it hard, like playing video games. FIFA, 2K, Madden, all that stuff.

Hoogerwerf: He wouldn’t let me play 2K with him anymore because he’s there to win, and I was holding him back.

Pierce: We played NCAA 14 and he would run the score up on me, and I would get so mad. All he did was go to school, play football and play video games.

Hoogerwerf: We played on the same team once in a FIFA tournament. He only let me use one button … We won the tournament.

Guyton: He would be the guy that could control 10 guys on the team, and I would be the guy that would just stand in the corner. He would coach the players as if they could hear him.

Murray is the same way on the football and baseball field.

Coach Fleener: For three years, I never had to yell at receivers to run hard on a route. Kyler was going to let them hear it and the whole field was going to hear it.

Guyton: If he sees something he doesn’t like or something isn’t right, then he will step up and say, “Let’s go, get your head out of your ass.”

Lee Morris: He’s always been a playmaker, and he’s always expected the best out of his teammates.

Coach Fleener: We used to have a little five-minute break in our practice after we did routes on air. There were multiple instances where he would say, “We’re not going to break. Get your butt back out here.” He would get after them.

Olootu Jr.: He’s so competitive that after practice he would make us do one-on-ones. Me, him and Guyten. We went at it.

Carter: Coach Fleener would always say, “You have to practice at that speed, not just flip a switch … Unless you’re Kyler.” Because he didn’t need to flip a switch — the switch was always flipped.

Coach Fleener: He doesn’t get guys that have to flip a switch to turn it on. When it’s time to practice, it’s time to practice. When it’s time to play a game, it’s time to play a game. He doesn’t understand pregame speeches. He doesn’t understand that need to listen to a song before they got out and play … It bothers him that guys don’t just walk on the field and the switch is on to be a beast.

Murray’s competitiveness has made him who he is today. The confidence and swagger showed throughout his high school career.

Chapter 2: Kyler the legend

His 42-0 record and three consecutive state championships are well known. But it’s the games, and moments, that made him go from a star to a legend. When asked what game defined Murray’s career, nearly everyone had a different answer.

Hoogerwerf: It came against DeSoto.

Olootu Jr.: Southlake.

Adams: Coppell.

Coach Fleener: Skyline or Southlake Carroll.

Koroma: It was against Mesquite.

Guyton: Maybe Hebron.

Coach Westerberg: There were so many moments.

One game in particular was mentioned by each and every teammate and coach at Allen. It happened Dec. 14, 2013.

Koroma: The DeSoto game was something special.

Coach Fleener: It was to go to the state championship. Everything on the line.

It was Murray’s junior year. He had led the Eagles to a perfect 13-0 record, but that was in jeopardy at halftime as they trailed 22-17.

Koroma: We went into halftime, and I was like, “I don’t know, man.” But Kyler took over. A lot of people were frustrated during that game. Not Kyler.

His team still trailed 35-20 with 8:35 left to play in the fourth quarter.

Carter: He came to me on the sideline and said, “We’re good.”

Guyton: He hit me on a 60-some-yard touchdown to cut it to eight.

Olootu Jr.: We got a stop.

Koroma: Then we went and scored.

Hoogerwerf: Kyler converted the two-point conversion to tie the game. He sprinted 100 yards down the sidelines, pylon to pylon, screaming at our bench to get fired up … That’s the most emotional I’ve seen Kyler.

Murray’s heroics weren’t done. He would score on a 24-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining to seal the victory and send Allen to the state championship.

Olootu Jr.: He just changed the game. I’ve never seen anyone run that fast — he was running with the defensive backs.

Coach Fleener: He’s just built different.

Adams: He just has a different mentality than everyone else … He doesn’t lose.

Carter: He carries himself as if to say, “Been here, done this.” He was never a guy to show a lot of emotion. But he did then.

Koroma: It was just Kyler being Kyler.

Beyond the DeSoto game, nearly every player shared their favorite “Kyler” moment during his career at Allen.

Hoogerwerf: I can pinpoint a moment when I knew he was future a Heisman contender … We were playing Plano West Kyler’s junior year. (Texas A&M coaches Kevin Sumlin and Jake Spavital) had just landed their helicopter in the open field right next to the football stadium, and Kyler had just broken a 70-yard zone read. I remember Sumlin and (Spivatal) were standing in the end zone and Kyler shook both of their hands after he walked across the end zone. And he just walked back to our sideline like it was no big deal.

Guyton: We were playing Hebron and they had subbed in the backup corner. Me and Kyler were on the same page, so he checked in a post play and we were both thinking touchdown. But I tripped on my own feet and fell, and the kid intercepted the ball … Kyler was pissed. We scored the next time we ran the play.

Carter: Halftime of the state championship his senior year, he was furious because he only had about 250 to 300 yards, and he felt that he should have 450 to 500. He was mad the offense wasn’t showing what they could do. He holds himself to such a high standard that it rubs off, which makes everyone else around him better.

Koroma: I remember when I became a fan of Kyler Murray, not just a teammate. It was against Mesquite. It was fourth-and-one, he was stuffed in the backfield, spun out, and went for six.

Carter: We had a playoff (baseball) game on a Saturday and Kyler had to take the SAT, so he was going to be late. I’m sitting in centerfield and he rolls up about 30 to 45 minutes late — we’re in the third inning. He’s so nonchalant, shaking people’s hands in the parking lot, and now he’s the first one up to bat with his shoes barely tied, and the first pitch he smacks a double off the wall. And that’s Kyler Murray in a nutshell ... Oh, and we won the game. He hit a homer later.

Murray’s high school career will go down as one of, if not the best, of all time in Texas. But if it weren’t for one man, his father, he may have never reached his full potential.

Chapter 3: Kyler the son

Kevin Murray was a standout quarterback and baseball player at Texas A&M from 1983-87. After suffering a serious ankle injury during his career at A&M and making a short stint in the NFL, Kevin became a well-known QB coach in Texas.

Pierce: I kind of knew who (Kyler) was because of his dad … His dad now trains my little brother. Kind of funny how it all works out.

Koroma: We love coach Kevin. He believes in Kyler so much. It’s all love over there.

Guyton: I don’t think anybody’s relationship with their father should be underestimated. I think Kevin is not only the reason Kyler has been able to find success, but also someone like me. He was able to pour so much into me.

Olootu Jr.: He gets a lot of his competitiveness from (Kevin) ... This summer we were throwing the football around with Antonio Brown and Marquise Brown, and his dad got out there and started throwing some routes, saying, “I still got it.” It’s just in their blood.

Kevin has played a major role in Murray’s life. He trained Murray as a kid, along with many other quarterbacks. He’s trained guys like former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, current Purdue quarterback David Blough and Highland Park’s rising star quarterback Chandler Morris, son of Arkansas head coach Chad Morris.

Guyton: When it came time to coach, he was able to put on that coaching hat, and Kyler was able to learn. His dad has trained him to a T.

Pierce: Him and his dad are pretty tight, man. They’re all business. That’s where he gets a lot of his success.

Coach Fleener: Kevin gave him the opportunities and has that mentality, but he never pushed it on Kyler. He’s just one of those special kids that’s wired a different way. From 4 years old, he’s wanted to be the best and he’s willing to do the work to get there. It was Kyler that said, “Dad, let’s go throw, let’s go hit some balls.”

Koroma: I’d say he gets all of his confidence from his abilities.

Coach Fleener: I got lucky to be extremely close with him and his family. The one thing I will say Kyler did learn from Kevin is that circle of trust. He keeps his circle extremely tight as far as who he’s friends with, who he opens up with.

After Murray transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma, and rumors spread Kevin had something to do with it, Kevin shut off all contact with the media.

Coach Fleener: I think Kevin gets a bad wrap because of the way he treats the media, but he wants everything to be about Kyler. He doesn’t want any publicity, he doesn’t want any credit for anything because he knows how hard Kyler has worked for so long. You’ll notice on Saturdays they never pan to him in the crowd … He’ll never give them permission to do that because he wants the focus on Kyler.

Koroma: It’s all love over there. He wants the best for Kyler… And yeah, all parents are there to reassure you that you’re the best and his dad thinks he’s the best, and, hell, he might be.

Coach Fleener: I used to not do a single interview before unless Kyler and Kevin gave me permission. But with how this season is going, Kevin has told me I’m good … I’m getting two calls a week.

Kevin loves his son — no question about it. He believes he’s doing what’s best for Murray. And in the end, it was Murray’s decision to transfer, and man, did it pay off.

Chapter 4: Kyler the transfer

Murray was rated as one of the top recruits in the country out of high school. ESPN rated him as the No. 1 dual-threat QB in the country. But he also had a decision to make: Football or baseball? Or both? MLB scouts visited Murray throughout his senior year, wondering if the two-sport athlete would choose baseball while the football letters continued to stack up.

Hoogerwerf: I pretty much came in at halftime of every game my senior year, and that was cool for me because I got a bunch of playing time in front of D-I scouts … The coaches would always put our letters on top our lockers, and my locker was next to Kyler’s, so I would always come in early and slide all his letters to my locker … He didn’t buy it.

Koroma: I felt like it didn’t really matter where he went because honestly he felt, and I felt, that he would make that team great. I remember he would throw teams out to me and I’d be like, “Them too?” And he’d say, “Yeah, why not?” He was confident that no matter where he went, he would make them a better team.

Coach Lincoln Riley: Had a couple of good phone conversations. Ended up going down to Allen and met with him, had a really good meeting, hit it off. But, right before signing day, it was a little too much, too fast. Little too much ground to make up. So he went ahead and signed with A&M. Left it on good terms.

Coach Fleener: I said, “What do you want to do? What are you thinking?” He said, “I want to be a professional player, but I’m not done playing football. I’m 17 years old, and if I sign, they’re going to send me to rookie ball in June in the middle of nowhere, riding buses with guys that I don’t know, playing in front of 200 people and staying in cheap hotels … Or, I can go to A&M and play in front of 100,000 people in a game I still love and still play baseball … It’s a no-brainer to me.”

Murray chose his father’s alma mater. But after a tumultuous freshman season in which Murray started only three games and played in eight, he decided to transfer.

Pierce: There was a lot going on there, with Sumlin and everything else. I don’t think there was a lot of communication … He was probably looking for a little bit more transparency.

Koroma: I’m biased because I played with him and I think he’s great, so when he wasn’t playing at times, I was shocked, I was hurt. So when he told me he was going to get out of there, I figured it was the best decision for him.

Evans: I told him to go somewhere he’d a get a chance to show what he can do.

Murray announced his decision to transfer from Texas A&M on Dec. 17, 2015 — 14 days before Oklahoma played Clemson in the College Football Playoff. The Sooners were one of the first schools that came to mind for Fleener, with Baker Mayfield — at the time — only having one elegible season remaining.

Coach Fleener: I figured with Baker leaving soon that Oklahoma would be a good fit.

Mayfield was awarded another year of eligibility by the Big 12 for the 2017 season, after having to sit out the 2014 season due to transfer rules.

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