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Kyler Murray’s high school coach believes in QB’s reserved leadership

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (11) watches drills at the NFL football scouting combine with North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

By most accounts, quarterback Kyler Murray has the talent to go first in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s got the athleticism and the arm talent (even the height!).

An outlier to that thought came out of the woodwork this week through former NFL executive and current NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly.

On Tuesday, Casserly posed a very different and very negative opinion of Murray, who at the NFL Combine built his hype as a potential draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Was it just bad information floated by another team hoping the Cardinals would pass on Murray?

If anything, it wasn’t a shared opinion of Murray from the quarterback’s high school coach, Tom Westerberg.

He and Murray won three state titles and went 42-0 at Allen High School in Allen, Texas, before Murray committed to Texas A&M in his first college stop. That preceded Murray’s blossoming into a Heisman winner at Oklahoma this past season.

Westerberg, who joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, didn’t see where an evaluator could come to such conclusions about Murray. Even with such brief interview sessions available at the NFL Combine.

“Me, nor (Oklahoma coach) Lincoln Riley, nor anyone who’s been around him, that’s ever coached him” would come to such a conclusion, Westerberg said Thursday about Casserly’s evaluation. “It’s hard to be possibility pick number one in the NFL Draft and pick number eight in baseball without work habits. It’s hard to win as many games as he’s won without being a leader.

“He definitely raises the level of play of people around him. It’s hard to be the guy with the ball in your hands and not be a leader and win the games that you win.”

Westerberg admits Murray’s leadership qualities might not come across upon meeting him. The quarterback is quiet and calm until he’s leading a football team on the field.

“He’s been raised really well by his mom and dad. They’ve kept him grounded. He’s a humble kid,” said Westerberg, who is good friends with Murray’s father, Kevin Murray. “You got to get to know him before you really get to see who he is. He kind of keeps to himself a little bit, pretty private.

“If you go out to the practice field, he’s not a loud, boisterous — not that guy. I would say he’s pretty reserved if you don’t know him.”

That’s not to say Murray is lacking in confidence.

Murray is the type who would give his coach a wink and lead his team back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit, Westerberg said. He was also willing to call teammates out in the locker room for failing to meet expectations.

And no, Westerberg doesn’t believe Murray will struggle learning the complicated defensive schemes to read or offensive concepts to execute in the NFL.

“He’s kind of a perfectionist on the field. When it comes to football IQ, if you’re not smart in football, it’s hard to win all those games,” Westerberg said. “It’s hard to be a leader. You can’t be a dumb football player and be a quarterback and win the games that he’s won.”

As for the potential of Murray landing in Arizona, Westerberg said Kingsbury’s system would be a perfect fit.

“I think they’d be getting the most exciting player in football, and a good young man,” Westerberg said. “I think it’s a combination of both, which is pretty deadly.”

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