When you’re in the spotlight that TCU commit Desmon White (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) and ESPN Junior 300 Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas/Allen) are in, you’re looked at as larger than life. Even if, literally, you’re not.
The idea of quarterbacks physically towering over the majority of their teammates is thrown out the window when discussing White and Murray, listed at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds and 5-11 and 166 pounds, respectively.
“Size doesn’t matter if you can produce and play against big-time players,” White said. “It doesn’t matter how big you are.”
White and Murray, who played each other Saturday in a Texas Class 5A Division I state semifinal, are poster children for the new image of the college quarterback. Gone are the days when signal-callers were required to be taller than 6 feet. The Peyton Mannings, Tom Bradys and Ben Roethlisbergers of football are being replaced by the Drew Breeses, Russell Wilsons and Johnny Manziels -- players who are smaller in stature but quicker, more elusive and equally competitive with arm strength and overall playmaking ability.
“Look at Russell Wilson. Look at Manziel. Times are changing,” said Kevin Murray, Kyler’s father and a former quarterback at Texas A&M. “Size at this position, that’s the old model. Nowadays, these coaches are looking for kids who have good feet and can get them out of a bad play.”
Of course, not everybody can be Doug Flutie or Michael Vick. Or any other quarterback who stood 6 feet or shorter and saw football success at the ultimate level.
Kevin Murray, who stands 6-2 and played for the Aggies in the 1980s, watches his son perform like a man among boys each week. One of Kyler Murray’s best performances came Saturday, as he led Allen to a 42-35, come-from-behind victory, one where Allen scored 22 fourth-quarter points, and Murray scored the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left to play.
“I’m a competitor. I never doubt what I can do,” said Murray, who threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 143 yards and a game-winning, 24-yard touchdown. “Whatever obstacle I’ve got to go through, I’m going to do it. I’m a perfectionist.”
Ask his father, however, and it’s easy to tell why Kyler’s such a wanted recruit. Kyler, the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and No. 47 player overall, holds offers from Texas A&M, Texas, Auburn, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon and a host of other programs. He is nearing 20 BCS offers.
“Kyler has a different mentality. Because of that, I can tell you firsthand, size just doesn’t matter,” the elder Murray said. “When I played back in the day, you wanted a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 guy who was a pocket passer. Now you’ve got shorter guys who are mobile and athletic playmakers.
“There are still some teams who subscribe to that older model, but the game has evolved to where guys are so good on defense and so skilled, it’s to your advantage that if you have a kid back there with good feet -- doesn’t matter his size -- who can read the defense, he’s a dangerous weapon.”
And how dangerous has Kyler Murray been? As a sophomore, he led his team to a state championship. This year, he’s thrown for nearly 3,400 yards and 42 touchdowns, and he’s rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and 18 touchdowns. Murray, additionally, was recently named the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year.
Just to add, Murray is a pretty good baseball player, as well. His favorite quarterback? An easy answer if you consider all circumstances.
“Russell Wilson,” Kevin Murray said, referring to the Seahawks quarterback who has played baseball in the Colorado Rockies' minor league system.
Still, the height issue for this pair of quarterbacks is always there. One look at White, and it’s understandable why, despite putting up insane numbers during his high school career, he didn’t pick up his first offer until Oct. 3. North Texas offered that afternoon, and after mulling over the decision with friends and family, he committed to the Mean Green.
Later in the month, White received his first BCS offer from TCU. He switched his commitment on Oct. 22, as it was too good of an opportunity for him to pass up. It was a chance to live the lifelong aspiration of playing football in the Big 12.
“I didn’t think I’d get a chance because of my size,” White said. “It’s been a dream of mine to play at this level. TCU’s always been a good school. I’m just ready to make plays and do what I can to help the program.”
His height may give some programs pause, but his numbers don’t lie. In three varsity seasons, White has thrown for 7,991 yards and 79 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 3,658 yards and 36 touchdowns.
This season alone, White has thrown for 3,736 passing yards and 38 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns. White has also generated two last-minute, fourth-quarter drives resulting in come-from-behind playoff victories.
In DeSoto’s 48-41 win against Euless (Texas) Trinity last week, Trinity took a 41-40 lead with 2:31 left to play. DeSoto coach Claude Mathis had instructed his defense to give up a touchdown in an effort to put his offense on the field with enough time to operate. White needed 10 plays to lead his team down the field and score with six seconds left to play.
“Nothing bothers him -- at all,” Mathis said. “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we’d go down and score. He’s exceeded my expectations more than I ever thought, and now, I have so much confidence in that young man. The whole team believes in him, and I know his tank still isn’t empty.”
White – who’s a fan of Manziel and Tajh Boyd, two quarterbacks listed just above 6 feet -- understands why his recruiting didn’t take off, and he’s content with where he is now. All he asked was for college recruiters to watch him play and judge after the game.
“If I were taller, I’d probably have a lot more offers. It is what it is,” he said. “I’m short, but I still have to go out and play.”
But will he be able to play the quarterback position at the next level? The “athlete” tag can be a blessing and a curse. For a quarterback, it could be the assumption of a dual-threat option.
For a short quarterback, it could easily be redefined as someone who will play a different position in college. Murray once was discussed as a wide receiver. White may see snaps at quarterback at the next level, but he’s expecting to see time at receiver and as a special-teams returner.
Murray silently laughs at the definition. Then, he silently erases the stereotypes with monster performances. He’s led an Allen offense that has averaged 50.2 points in five playoff games.
But don’t expect him to make a big scene over everything.
“I just come out every Friday or Saturday and do my thing,” he said. “I don’t look at the stats. We’ll be playing in the state championship [Saturday]. That’s all we wanted to do.”
Mathis and Kevin Murray both feel that playing the two quarterbacks at different positions would be an injustice. Both have great arm strength, accuracy and leadership skills, three traits that every good quarterback has.
“He plays the position the way it’s meant to be played,” Kevin Murray said of Kyler. “He’s going to go through his progressions before he decides to exit the pocket. I read something where it said Kyler could have run for 400 yards [in a playoff against Spring (Texas) Westfield] if that was his M.O. He’s 5-11, but look at how he plays. It’s all about how you play the game. And he just turned 16 four months ago.”
Mathis added: “I’ve always said, once a coach sees Des’ film and sees what a player he is, how can you not want him? Look at our schedule, and see the competition we’ve played. He’s putting up numbers against some of the best schools. You just can’t do that unless you’re special.”
Saturday, fans were treated to both quarterbacks. Murray’s stats were impressive, and in a losing effort, White accounted for 323 total yards and five touchdowns -- four of which came via the rush.
Forget their statures. Both players play like giants.