It didn’t take long for Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to know Norman was where he needed to be the rest of his college career.
Murray, a former five-star quarterback, transferred from Texas A&M following the 2015 season and OU announced his intention to transfer Christmas Eve.
Murray never said anything publicly about the transfer so there was no way to really gauge what he was thinking then and what he’s thinking now.
But after that first workout in Norman, Murray knew.
“As soon as I stepped on, first workout, we were maxing. It felt like high school all over again,” said Murray in talking to OU beat writers for the first time Thursday. “Guys were fired up for each other. We’re in a weight room that’s damn near like a garage back like in the high school days.
“The camaraderie of the team just felt great.”
Murray understood the consequences. Leaving College Station to become a Sooner meant being ineligible for the 2016 season.
He’ll have to somehow manage the disappointment of not being out there in the fall with the realization good things can come in the future.
He has a pretty good person to ask about the situation considering OU starting quarterback Baker Mayfield was in the exact same spot after transferring from Texas Tech to OU following the 2013 season.
“Love Bake,” Murray said. “I’ve been around the game for a long time, and he’s definitely one of the guys I respect the most. Playing wise – I’m not a hater on any player, but I respect Baker a lot.
“The way he plays – leadership. He’s a great leader. He’s teaching me stuff so to have him and learn from him is definitely helpful.”
It will also give Murray a year away from the spotlight. He’s never known anything else since being a sophomore at perennial powerhouse Allen (Texas) High. In his three years as starting quarterback, he never lost a game, winning three state championships.
He can go to restaurants in Norman and not be met with swarms of people looking to get in touch with him. Murray can simply be Murray, at least for now.
OU was in the mix initially in his recruitment before he opted to stick with his pledge to the Aggies. A&M fans were hopeful he would be the next Johnny Manziel and bring another Heisman Trophy and some championships to College Station.
It didn’t work out that way. An uneven freshman season on the field was overshadowed by all the drama and speculation off the field. Murray said he’s in a good place now, physically and mentally.
“I’m a pretty strong-minded kid so all the stuff I went through – which none of it is really out there – nobody knows what happened, but everything that I’ve been through, it was a good learning experience,” Murray said. “I think it’s helped me so far grow as a man, a football player, everything.”
Murray initially developed a strong bond with former OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel as Lincoln Riley never had a legitimate chance at trying to sway Murray to the Sooners down the stretch.
It was Riley’s first month of being in Norman, and he was still getting acclimated to everything. Riley knows what he’s doing now, and so, too, does Murray.
The process was tough, said it was as tough as trying to pick the school coming out of high school. It helps to have former teammates like Tay and Bobby Evans and Lee Morris, but ultimately, his decision was for another reason.
“After I decided to go, it felt like the timing was right with Baker and his time and obviously getting to sit behind him at a great place like OU where we have athletes,” Murray said. “You can’t go wrong going to a place like Oklahoma where you win every year. Great coaches, great stability. Trusting the coaches and trusting the process. It was an easy decision.”
And a humbling experience for Murray. He admits 100 percent I thought he knew it all when it came to college football. It was tough losing for Murray since he never did it in high school. It took a year longer than OU fans wanted, but the Sooners and their fans are more than happy to have him in the fold.