Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Asking a former Pittsfield Sun about college teammate Kyler Murray's upcoming pro decision

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Bill Belichick and his coaching staff have been very busy preparing for next week's Super Bowl game against the Los Angeles Rams.

But if you think for a minute that the Rams are all the Patriots are focusing on, you would be wrong.

The New England scouting staff has been busy making its list, checking it twice (or more), and determining who the Patriots will take with either the 31st or 32nd pick in the NFL Draft.

Some mock drafts have suggested that the Patriots will select a potential replacement for Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Tom Brady. The suggestion goes on to say that it could be Oklahoma's Kyler Murray.

Murray will have a decision to make, just like the Patriots. Will he go to the NFL team that drafts him, likely in the first round, or would he stick with the Oakland A's? The A's picked him in the first round of last summer's MLB First Year Player Draft. He did sign with the A's, but was able to play football for the Sooners last fall.

That would make Murray one of the rare players who were first-round picks in multiple sports. Not even John Elway was taken in the first round in both baseball and football. He was a second-round pick of the Yankees.

The question is, will Murray sign with an NFL team, or will he start his baseball career with an A's farm club?

"I talk to him about it all the time. I talked to him multiple times about what he liked better, and he told me it's hard to compare because they're both so different," former Pittsfield Suns infielder Thomas Hughes said. "In my heart, I really think he's going to play football."

Hughes was a baseball teammate of Murray's at Oklahoma. And while Hughes is now a post-graduate baseball player at Kansas State, he is still connected with Murray.

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"I don't think it's a money decision for him," Hughes said when we spoke last week. "I don't think it should be a money decision. It's like any job, it's something you should love doing. I really think he loves football. I think in the past year, it really helped his love for football, with how successful he was and how much hype he got.

"It's hard not to fall in love with something like that."

Were Murray to report to A's camp and not sign with an NFL team, he would be the first Heisman Trophy winner to eschew football for another sport since Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward opted to not play in the NFL. Ward was drafted by the Knicks, and told NFL teams he would play basketball unless he was taken in the first round. He was not.

We all saw Murray most weekends dazzle on the football field. We did not get to see him as much on the diamond. So Thomas Hughes, what was he like on the field?

"There was definitely a little transition for him" going from football to baseball, Hughes said. "He hadn't seen live pitching in so long, and it's understandable because we all go through it when we take little periods of time off. Once he saw live arms for the first time in about a week, he'd be fine. I remember one thing specifically. The first day he came came back from fall ball, it was him, me and [former OU player] Steele Walker. We were hitting in the cages and we had the [pitching] machine hooked up. We had been doing it all fall. Kyler jumped in and he couldn't hit it. The most he could do was foul it back.

"You gave him two weeks, and he was hitting a curve better than anybody. He's obviously a once-in-a-generation athlete."

A once-in-a-generation athlete who most mock drafts say will not last past Miami at the No. 13 pick. One mock, on NFL.com, has Kyler Murray lasting until the Patriots pick. Hughes, whose father Pete is the head coach at Kansas State, comes from a New England family. Pete Hughes is from Brockton, coached football and baseball at Northeastern and was the head coach at Boston College for seven seasons.

So if the Patriots were to select Murray, Thomas Hughes would be happy.

"That would be awesome," Hughes said. "I'm a huge Patriots fan. I love Kyler to death. I would love to see him play for the Patriots."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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