NORMAN — Kyler Murray didn’t have to be the former Texas A&M starting quarterback who underwent a high-profile transfer to Oklahoma.
He didn’t have to be the kid who went 43-0 as Allen High School’s signal caller.
This summer, before beginning competition to become OU’s backup quarterback, he didn’t have to be much of anyone at all, in the public eye.
He roamed New England ballparks with elite college baseball players in the Cape Cod League, sleeping in the basement of 86-year-old Barbara Ellsworth — who for 37 years has temporarily housed players and is known more frequently as Mrs. E — and adhering to her strict rules.
No wearing your baseball cap at the dinner table. No resting your baseball caps on the dinner table. No leaning back in your chair.
“It was a little rough when I first got there, I will say, because I’ve never really had a summer up north,” Murray said. “It was a good experience for me. Kind of humbled me a little bit in ways, but the baseball part was lovely.”
Murray, a two-sport athlete at OU, could easily be spotted at Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City, or back in his Texas hometown. In America’s far northeast corner, he was just another guy who didn’t call lobsters “lobst-ahs.”
Having not played a football game since his 2015 transfer from A&M, Murray was keeping a relatively low profile anyway.
That could change quickly if OU star Baker Mayfield becomes unavailable, which is why eyes are again fixated on Murray, as well as sophomore Austin Kendall.
The race to become Mayfield’s backup — and perhaps gain inside position for OU’s starting role after he graduates — is underway and worth monitoring.
Kendall was the clear-cut No. 2 last season as Murray sat out due to NCAA transfer rules. With both in the fold, nothing about the battle is certain these days. OU coach Lincoln Riley has even included redshirt freshman Tanner Schafer’s name in the mix.
“You can feel kind of the difference in their play and their sense of urgency right now versus last year at this time, which has been a positive,” Riley said.
Mayfield has been somewhat fascinated by the race, too, pointing to the array of skills sets in OU’s quarterback room.
“They’re all good at different things,” he said.
Kendall boasts more pocket presence at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and more game experience in Riley’s system. His stats as Mayfield’s reserve last season were meager — 16 completions for 143 yards and two touchdowns in two games — but still represented the most by a true freshman in Bob Stoops’ 18 years as OU head coach.
“It was huge, just getting those little jitters out,” Kendall said. “It was tremendous for me. … The second game, I felt really comfortable even more than I was the first game with those three quarters.
Still a redshirt sophomore, Murray (5-10, 192) has seen his share of the spotlight, too. He won three state titles at Allen High School and played eight games with three starts as a Texas A&M freshman, throwing for 686 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2015.
Murray’s dual-threat capability adds another layer to the conversation. Some consider Murray the team’s fastest player, and his potential to maximize broken plays is more reminiscent of Mayfield, whose skills Riley has integrated perfectly into his Air Raid offense.
“Obviously, he has the speed,” Kendall said. “I’m not as fast as him but I try to use my arm to the best of my ability.”
Kendall got a two-day head start in OU's fall camp, as Murray sorted out a personal issue that kept him off the field. Riley couldn't elaborate on the issue, but said Murray adjusted to football speed quickly after his summer of baseball.
"Kyler is like a dog that's sitting on the porch, and that car drives by and he doesn't have to stretch or anything. He's just full speed right now," Riley said. "It's pretty remarkable what the guy can do athletically."
Murray and Kendall get along, each said. Murray even brushed off the word “battle” when referring to their competition.
“I don’t look at it [like that],” Murray said. “Everybody is pulling for everybody. One of the best quarterback rooms I’ve been a part of my entire life. I love those guys.”
For now it's Mayfield — a Heisman Trophy finalist with big-time credentials and an even bigger personality — demanding most of the major attention.
That could always change.
If thrust into live action, Riley won't cut Mayfield's backup any slack.
"We're looking for the guy that can be the most consistent," Riley said, "that can move the group when he walks in there. If you hadn't seen us play offensively, you would think he's the starter and he's running the show."