Read a brief summary of Kyler Murray’s football background, and it’s clear he was groomed for football’s biggest stage.
His first Monday Night Football appearance will, of course, come on a literal stage he’s very familiar with.
The second-year NFL quarterback grew up in football-loving Texas being coached by his father, quarterback Kevin Murray. From Kyler Murray’s stops at Allen High School through college at Oklahoma, he’s compiled seven appearances — all wins — at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
So, naturally, Murray is going to downplay the magnitude of his return to the Dallas area Monday when the Cardinals visit the Dallas Cowboys.
“Due to COVID … the whole place isn’t going to be rocking like it should be,” Murray said Wednesday. “I know what’s at stake. We’re playing to win and that’s the end goal. This isn’t about me going home. It’s about us playing the Cowboys, a good football team. We’re on the road.
“I’ll be able to enjoy it but at the same time, to enjoy it, you’ve got to win.”
The Cowboys have been operating their home attendance at about 25% capacity, meaning the Cardinals will face the largest group of opposing fans so far in 2020. More than 25,000 attended a 37-34 win over the New York Giants last week.
As loud or quiet as 25,000 people may be in that behemoth stadium, Murray’s teammates don’t expect the quarterback to have nerves.
“I hope to see Kyler doing what he did last week: That’s leading us to victory on his feet and in the air,” Arizona receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “You don’t really want to put too much pressure on him going back home but I don’t think he really listens to the noise, knowing Kyler. It’s just another game for him.”
Murray’s Texas return is just one of many easy storylines that make for a perfect Monday Night Football matchup.
Opposite him will be Katy, Texas, native Andy Dalton making his first start for Dallas after quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Dalton will be throwing to Murray’s former Oklahoma teammate and rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb.
And in Murray’s headset will be the voice of Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who like Murray was coached by his father and lived the Texas high school football life as a quarterback.
“He’s probably more, I’d say, anxious than me,” Murray said of his head coach, who played high school football in New Braunfels, Texas.
Kingsbury might buy that Murray won’t be distracted, anxious or over-hyped in his return home.
Coaching in the college ranks at Houston, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the decade before he became Arizona’s head coach, Kingsbury had Murray on his radar from an early age.
“Had heard kind of the lore of Kyler as he grew up and his athletic accomplishments,” Kingsbury said, citing Murray’s father as a reason that Murray’s reputation was already there before high school began.
Murray said the attention has been on him dating back to pee-wee football, where game fields would be surrounded by fans curious to see him play. When high school rolled around, it wasn’t a big deal.
His transfer to Allen High School his sophomore year put him squarely on the map as a Texas high school football legend.
Three state title games at AT&T Stadium later followed by two more appearances at the Cowboys’ home with the Oklahoma Sooners, Murray returns home coming off a high — a win over the Jets and an NFC Offensive Player of the Week honor.
“There’s a lot of good memories there (at AT&T Stadium),” Murray said. “It means a lot. There’s been a lot of memories there, a lot of great memories. It’s a big deal.
“Just to be able to play on Monday night, not everybody gets that opportunity.”
The visit to Texas in primetime is the culmination of everything Murray has worked to achieve, Kingsbury said. The coach, too, will cherish the opportunity. He called it a “dream come true” to play in a stadium that signifies the importance of football — at all levels — in the state of Texas.
Will Kingsbury really be that anxious?
All he knows is that it’s unlikely his Texas accent intensifies considering the weirdness caused by the pandemic.
“We’ll see,” Kingsbury said. “It usually comes out when I get around my Texas people, but it’s usually after a few Coors Light, so I don’t know if it will really break out on this trip.”