NORMAN — The 2009 Sam Bradford pro day was memorable. So were the 2017 Joe Mixon and 2018 Baker Mayfield pro days.

Never before, however, has an OU pro day been a spectacle on this level.

On one sideline of the indoor facility, Todd McShay and Tim Hasselbeck did a “SportsCenter” segment for ESPN.

A few feet away, Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt paced during a phone call.

Positioned nearby was the NFL Network set. Originating from that set was live coverage of the Sooner pro day, during which Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray launched 66 passes.

Most of those passes were perfect, and all of them were witnessed by 75 NFL coaches and scouts. Two head coaches — Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants and Norman native Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals — were in attendance.

For this event two years ago, there were 60 credentialed media members. Last year, there were 80.

On Wednesday, there were 115.

The presence of Murray and some talented teammates attracted these people to Norman. Murray performed beautifully in the heat of the moment and ultimately may be the top pick in the April 25-27 NFL draft.

Murray wasn’t the only pro day winner, though.

For coach Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma football program, this was a phenomenal exercise in brand enhancement.

“This event allows you to showcase this facility (the 10-month-old Barry Switzer Center), and the OU logo is everywhere,” said Dusty Dvoracek, a former Sooners defensive tackle who now is an ESPN college football analyst. “(Pre-draft coverage of Murray) is on every major sports network.

“With Baker last year and now Kyler, OU is positioned to possibly having the No. 1 pick in the draft in two straight years. That in itself is tremendous marketing, but with a pro day like this, you’re also marketing Lincoln and the offense. You’re marketing the program and the facilities.”

After having been the Sooners head man for only two seasons, Riley is clearly defined as the top offensive coach in the country. His OU quarterback lineage began with Mayfield (the 2017 Heisman recipient), led to Murray and continues this year with Jalen Hurts, a graduate transfer who made 28 starts for Alabama and played in three national championship games.

If Riley drives Hurts to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December, no one should be surprised.

Pro day also involved four of OU’s offensive linemen. If not for injuries, it also would have involved a big-time wide receiver (Marquise Brown) and running back (Rodney Anderson).

Brown and Anderson were here on Wednesday, but neither participated in workouts. During a session with reporters, Anderson did his part to polish the Oklahoma image.

“If I’m a high school guy,” he said, “this is the kind of place where you want to be. This is where it happens.”

Through social media, recruits in California, Florida, Texas and Tulsa are made aware of what transpired during pro day. Recruits see that Riley-coached QBs flourish at the highest possible level, and that Riley’s blockers and pass-catchers get drafted.

“If you’re a top-echelon offensive player in high school, there are maybe three (college programs) you would even consider. OU is at the top of that list,” Klatt said. “The life blood of your program is how you recruit.”

In reference to OU’s facilities, Big 12 titles, College Football Playoff appearances, offensive statistics and drafted skill-position players, Klatt said, “All of this puts OU over the top. If I got a (recruiting) letter and it had an OU logo on it, OU would be at the top of my list.

“The value of a day like this is that you can get into the living room of every top offensive player. Clemson and Alabama have that on the defensive side.”

For 100 days before the 2018 NFL draft, Mayfield was a part of every conversation concerning possible first-round quarterbacks. Since Feb. 11, when Murray announced that he had chosen football over baseball, he has commanded more attention than anyone else in the sport.

There were countless references to “former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield,” and now there are the same with Kyler Murray. These associations are permanently favorable.

If you bundle the big-picture success of Riley at OU with the success of Mayfield and Murray during and after their Sooner careers, the benefits are tremendous.

This is what you get: 115 credentialed media members at pro day, and an enhancement of an OU brand that already was among the more significant in college football.

Bill Haisten


Twitter: @billhaisten

Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397