Allen football fans have plenty of fond memories watching alum Kyler Murray ply his craft inside AT&T Stadium. In a few days, they’ll watch him do so inside the state-of-the-art venue for the first time as an NFL quarterback.
Next week, Murray leads the Arizona Cardinals into a Monday Night Football showdown against the Dallas Cowboys — the former Allen star’s first trip back to the Metroplex since being picked No. 1 overall by the Cardinals in 2019 NFL draft.
“There’s no doubt Kyler is Allen’s favorite son when it comes to athletics. Everybody in Allen’s rooting for Kyler, no matter where he plays,” said Steve Williams, Allen ISD athletic director. “I’m so proud and excited about what Kyler’s done because people have always denied that he’d be able to do it at the next level.”
Murray is entrenched in both Allen and Texas high school football lore after staging a historic three-year run from 2012-14 that resulted in a 42-0 career record as the Eagles’ starting quarterback and a three consecutive UIL state championships. During his time at Allen, Murray threw for 10,386 yards, rushed for 4,139 more and totaled 186 touchdowns — spearheading the second-longest winning streak in state history during Allen’s 57-game run of perfection from 2012-15.
“I know we’re all biased around here when it comes to Kyler, but I feel like he’s the best football player to ever play in the state of Texas,” Williams said. “You always knew when you had Kyler that you were never out of any game and he proved that plenty of times, especially in big games. What he did and the notoriety he brought to the program basically put Allen, football-wise, on the grand stage nationally.”
Although questions loomed as to how his game would translate to the college and professional gridiron, mostly due to his 5-foot-10 frame, Murray has racked up a score of accolades ever since. During his lone year as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma, Murray captured the Heisman Trophy. So far, he’s the expectations of being the draft’s top overall pick — named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors following his debut campaign in Arizona.
Last season, Murray passed for 3,722 yards, rushed for 544 and totaled 24 touchdowns. He joined Cam Newton as the only quarterbacks with 3,500-plus passing yards and 500-plus rushing yards in their rookie seasons.
All the while, Murray’s success hasn’t been lost on those back in Texas.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of deal. You don’t know how many opportunities you’ll ever have to coach a player like that, but I think more importantly for me it’s about the relationship we developed off the field and the friendship we still have,” said Jeff Fleener, Mesquite head coach and former Allen offensive coordinator. “I still get to see him when he’s in town, he still answers text messages whenever I tell him, ‘Good game.’ I think it’s that relationship that we have now that made it all more fun.”
“There were a lot of people who flipped to being OU fans, including me, when he played Texas in college,” Williams added. “There are probably way more Arizona Cardinal fans in Allen these days.”
Murray enters Monday’s game on pace to eclipse those figures, having logged 1,299 passing yards, 296 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns as part of a 3-2 start for the Cardinals — Arizona’s best start since 2015. His 7.2 rushing yards per carry is the top mark in the NFL.
“The most fun thing watching him play this year after his rookie season is that I think the game is starting to slow down for him,” Fleener said. “He looks a lot more comfortable running the ball — I think he’s realizing more and more what he can do to help his team win this year.”
There should be plenty of comfort in returning to AT&T Stadium as well. Murray has played on the Cowboys’ home turf seven times throughout his high school and college careers — amassing a 7-0 record that included all of three of Allen’s state championship wins. Murray added wins in college while at Texas A&M and Oklahoma, notably leading the Sooners to the Big 12 championship in a 39-21 win over Texas in December 2018.
Granted, Monday’s atmosphere won’t be the kind of turnout Murray is accustomed to — having played his 2013 and 2014 state title games in Arlington in front of crowds of 54,347 and 52,308, the two largest attendance numbers in Texas high school football history. AT&T Stadium is operating at just 25% capacity this season for Cowboys games.
“For a high school kid in Texas, that is the venue. Getting to play there is like getting to play in the Super Bowl for a kid that age,” Fleener said. “I think anybody that knows Kyler and how he’s wired, just the way he can find that extra thing that gets him juiced up for a game. It’ll be exciting to see him out there. I think he’ll treat it almost like a home-field advantage.”
Murray is one several Allen alumni in the NFL. His top receiver in high school, Jalen Guyton, has carved out a role with the Los Angeles Chargers — already finding the end zone twice during his rookie campaign. Offensive linemen Greg Little and Bobby Evans are in their second campaigns with the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams, respectively, while six-year veteran Cedric Ogbuehi is a backup lineman for the Seattle Seahawks, and running back Jonathan Williams is on the practice squad with the Washington Football Team.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime getting to watch this,” Fleener said. “It’s surreal, not only getting to see guys play in the NFL that you used to coach but even for my two sons, they stayed up late to watch Monday Night Football because their buddy Jalen was playing. It’s a blast to get to see those guys playing at the highest level.”
Although his high school days are well behind him, Murray still works out in Allen’s indoor facility during the offseason and trains at The Performance Course — a summertime staple for the Eagles’ football program.
“I think that [Murray] has always handled himself in a first-class manner,” added Terry Gambill, Allen head coach. “He’s an amazing competitor and he has accomplished so many great things. It’s really a testament to his work ethic and who he is as a person. I know the Allen Eagles are very proud of him.”