The depth chart never mattered to Baker Mayfield.
Never mind that he was a walk-on at Texas Tech, who became a starter and enjoyed a productive first season. When he decided to transfer to Oklahoma following a falling out with the Red Raiders' coaching staff after the 2013 season, Mayfield knew the Sooners had a capable quarterback in Trevor Knight, who was coming off of an MVP performance in a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
So it seemed surprising that Mayfield would choose Oklahoma given the depth chart. But that’s Baker Mayfield in a nutshell. He has never been fond of the easy route.
To Mayfield's credit, he has since gone on to be a three-year starter at Oklahoma while leading the Sooners to the 2017-18 College Football Playoff, where they will open with Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
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“I think it can relate to walking on out of high school,” Mayfield said. “I had a couple of scholarship offers but I believed in myself. For me, that’s how I looked at it at Oklahoma. My dream was to play there. For me, it didn’t matter what the challenge was. I was going to take a chance on it to make it come true.”
Mayfield, the heavy 2017 Heisman Trophy favorite, held court for roughly 30 minutes with a slew of reporters at the College Football Hall of Fame. Two of his teammates, offensive lineman Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, were on the other side of the room with anywhere between two to five reporters at a time at their tables.
But that’s what Mayfield has become – a player who went from small-town walk-on to campus superstar. Out of high school, only a couple of smaller-tier schools offered Mayfield out of high school, and those programs would have been fine for a lot of players. But Mayfield wanted to prove he could play in a major conference.
“Baker’s the type of person who is extremely confident in his abilities,” Andrews said. “He believes in himself. He believes with his talent and his ability to outwork people that he’ll get the opportunities to play. Just his confidence in himself, which is huge to his success. That’s probably his biggest thing.”
After redshirting in 2014, Mayfield ascended the depth chart and beat out Knight before the start of the 2015 season. He hasn’t let go of the job since. In his first season, Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions during a season that saw Oklahoma reach the College Football Playoff before losing to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Last year, Mayfield threw for 3,965 yards, 40 touchdowns and eight interceptions. A Heisman finalist a season ago, Mayfield is the favorite this year after going for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions as a senior.
THE BAD WITH THE GOOD
Throughout it all, Mayfield has brought plenty of attention to how well he has played on Saturdays. He has also made headlines for other, less-favorable, reasons. This past offseason, Mayfield was arrested on a public intoxication charge. After Oklahoma defeated Ohio State, Mayfield planted his team’s flag at midfield on the Buckeyes’ logo.
In a game against Kansas, Mayfield was caught on camera screaming obscenities to the opposing sideline while grabbing his crotch. He was subsequently stripped of his captain status and starting spot for Oklahoma’s regular-season finale against West Virginia.
“There have been ups and downs,” Mayfield said. “The thing for me is I’m learning and growing. I’ve addressed those things. I’m not going to put on a front and act like I’m some perfect kid. I’m 22 years old. I’m learning, going through life.”
Georgia will have to contend with Mayfield’s ability as a quarterback, as he can sit in the pocket or break loose scrambling. Head coach Kirby Smart likened Mayfield to former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre with how he operates the position.
“He’s got the gunslinger mentality in that he can make all the throws,” Smart said. “He enjoys the game and plays the game with so much passion. I’ve enjoyed watching the games he’s played and just the pageantry and the passion he plays with. It’s really what college football is about. He’s obviously a phenomenal player who makes everyone around him better.”
Mayfield described his career as a “rollercoaster,” although many quarterbacks would enjoy the ride, despite the bumps, he has been on.
“It’s not the way I drew it up. There have been a lot of mistakes,” Mayfield said. “But honestly those things have made me who I am. There are certain things I’d change and do differently but a lot of it has helped me out so you have to find the positives and the blessings in disguise. It’s been so special, it’s been so surreal. I’ve dreamt of playing quarterback for the University of Oklahoma. To have it be a reality is a dream come true.”