Heisman Trophy Goes to Baker Mayfield, Explosive Oklahoma Quarterback

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“Tried to play it cool,” Mayfield said later. “That’s not my thing though. I’m a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeve.”

His journey is set to continue in the College Football Playoff, where No. 2 Oklahoma is set to meet No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting two years ago and third last year. He entered this season as a favorite and jumped toward the front of the pack after an early victory at Ohio State that he celebrated by planting the Sooners’ flag into the Buckeyes’ turf.

He later apologized, but Mayfield’s career has been full of spectacular play fueled by grudges, slights and efforts to prove doubters wrong. Moxie is a word that gets attached to Mayfield often, but at times poor judgment has led to trouble.

Photo

From left, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Stanford running back Bryce Love and Mayfield.

Credit
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

Still, his play has been stellar. He has thrown for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns this season for the Sooners, who are 12-1 and the Big 12 champions. For his career, Mayfield is eighth in Football Bowl Subdivision history in passing yards (14,320) and sixth in touchdown passes (129). He is quite likely to leave college with the two best season passer ratings in major college football.

That is pretty good for a scrawny boy who grew up rooting for Oklahoma in Austin, Tex., but did not receive a scholarship offer out of high school from either his hometown Longhorns or his beloved Sooners.

Mayfield had won a state championship at Lake Travis High School, which regularly pumps out Division I quarterbacks. But at 6-foot-1, he was undersized and received just one offer from a Power 5 program: Washington State.

Instead, he walked on at Texas Tech and started eight games as a freshman. With a glut of quarterbacks there, however, Mayfield left with only one school in mind.

Oklahoma had Trevor Knight, who had three seasons of eligibility left after a Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama, but that did not dissuade Mayfield, who had a contentious departure from Texas Tech. At first, he lost a year of eligibility despite not being on scholarship. Texas Tech could have given permission to waive the lost year but did not.

Mayfield eventually regained that year of eligibility when the Big 12 tweaked its rules, but he never let go of the slight. For his final game against Texas Tech this season, he wore the “Traitor” T-shirt that some Red Raiders fans wore when he first returned to Lubbock with Oklahoma.

Later in the year, it was Kansas that tried to get the volatile Mayfield off his game. The Jayhawks captains refused to shake his hand during the pregame coin flip. They trash-talked Mayfield and even targeted him with a late hit. He responded by screaming profanities and making a lewd gesture that was caught by television cameras. That led to a public apology from Mayfield, his third this year.

The first came after he was arrested in Fayetteville, Ark., in February for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing. He pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors and paid a $300 fine. The second came after he planted the Sooners flag in Columbus, Ohio. Mayfield said before that early-season showdown that the Buckeyes had irked him by celebrating on the Sooners’ field in 2016.

Mayfield is an old-school winner, the first senior to win the award since Troy Smith of Ohio State in 2006. Four juniors, four sophomores and two redshirt freshmen have won the Heisman in the previous 10 years.

By comparison, Mayfield has been around an eternity, playing in 47 college games.

There is at least one more game to play for Mayfield, and maybe two. He and the Sooners will enter the playoff as a slight underdog against Georgia, which seems only appropriate for a player who has built his career on exceeding expectations.

Asked what has been his best moment, Mayfield predictably answered: “It hasn’t happened yet.”

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