Baker Mayfield was a dominant college football quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, and the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner is about to take his talents to the NFL.
Few, if any, dominated on the college football gridiron like former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield. In his three years with the Sooners, Mayfield quarterbacked Oklahoma to three straight Big 12 championships and two College Football Playoff appearances.
He was a two-time All-American at Oklahoma (2015, 2017) and won the 2017 Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding player in college football. In his final year with the Sooners, Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft in a deep quarterback class.
Mayfield has partnered with Panini, the exclusive trading card partner of the NFL/NFLPA. Panini has prioritized giving kids an opportunity to experience Super Bowl festivities by participating in a skills clinic featuring top NFL prospects and players. Get your Super Bowl Championship set via PaniniInstant.com starting Feb. 7.
Mayfield took a few minutes of his time to talk about his prolific college football career at Oklahoma and all that could lie ahead as he embarks on his NFL journey.
FanSided: Baker, what can you tell me about the work you are doing with Panini and the Panini Pop Warner Skills Clinic in Minnesota?
Baker Mayfield: It’s a good cause first of all. Giving back is something that is very important to me. At a young age, I admired all athletes quite frankly, but looking up to somebody and trying to emulate who they are as people. So it’s important to be a good role model. It’s a good event to be at.
FS: Was there a moment during last season where it dawned on you that you were probably going to win the Heisman Trophy? Or did you try not to really think about it until your name was announced in New York?
BM: I didn’t think about it during the year, quite honestly. People talked about it on our team and messed with me a little bit. But I kind of watched Saquon Barkley run away with it at first and I was all, “Well, you know that’s it, boys”. I remember vividly sitting in our hotel while Penn State was playing Ohio State and he took the opening kickoff for a touchdown, or one of the early kickoffs early on. So I was all, “Well, that’s it. I might as well play my game and just focus on me.”
FS: You quarterbacked three straight Big 12 championship teams at Oklahoma, winning a lot of games along the way. Was there any win that was more satisfying than the others? Or do you prefer to contextualize your college career as a whole and appreciate it that way?
BM: I mean, there were some wins that were more special than others. My first one playing against Akron, the first game I started was awesome. The overtime win over Tennessee was actually the next game. And between the Ohio State game this past year and my “Welcome Back” trip to Lubbock in 2016 were top ones.
FS: It’s remarkable that you were able to put up huge numbers in school with a different top-tier receiving target each year in Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook and Mark Andrews. What do you attribute your ability to get on the same page with excellent pass catchers like that so quickly?
BM: It’s a lot of stuff in the offseason. Getting the timing down and getting on the same page. And during the year, it’s about knowing your game plan and knowing exactly what you want to execute. Because you can have a guy that is less talented, but if you’re in sync, you can beat great coverages. So for me, that was always the thing. Yeah, I’ve had some talented guys around me, no doubt about that. But the chemistry is what made the trio special.
FS: It’s not just you entering the draft with high praise coming out of Oklahoma. What can you tell me about your college teammates Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown Jr. and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo?
BM: These are hard-working guys that I respect so much. I mean, even if I wasn’t on their team, I’d have respect for them just by their work ethic and who they are as people. It’s refreshing to be around guys like that because they’re genuine, they’re authentic and they care about each other. And so I really respect that. I’d take a bullet for them, no doubt about that.
FS: Before your senior year at Oklahoma, you guys underwent a coaching change. What was it like switching from Bob Stoops to Lincoln Riley? Was the transition really as seamless as it looked from afar?
BM: It really was. And that’s because offensively, we had been around Linc, Lincoln for a while, two years to be exact. So we knew exactly what we were getting into. And for the defensive guys, it was just about getting used to him being around them more. And he’s just a great guy.
But yeah, obviously, it was disappointing to see Coach Stoops go because growing up, he was the face of OU. I grew up such a fan, so it was bittersweet for me seeing Coach Stoops go. But knowing that I was going to have Lincoln as my head coach, you know working with him personally for two years before, that was very special for me.
FS: As you get ready for the 2018 NFL Draft, what would you say is the biggest thing you are working on in the months leading up to it?
BM: Footwork under center. I think that’s a big thing for me. I’m translating, as I’ve been in shotgun my whole life. I’ve taken snaps under center before, so it’s not that. It’s just jumping back under center, going through my reads as I take a five to seven-step drop.
FS: Is there any NFL team you’d like to play for? Or would you play for anybody?
BM: I’d play for anybody. I mean, everybody has their preferences and whatnot, but getting the chance to play football and that be my job is unbelievable for me.
FS: Is there an ideal situation where you hope would find yourself in once you’re drafted?
BM: Goodness. Honestly, No. 1 overall to Cleveland would be nice. I think everybody complains about Cleveland, but having a challenge in front of you is something I would love to do. And then whether it’s playing right away or sitting out behind somebody, it would have to be the right situation. Like sitting behind a Drew Brees or an Aaron Rodger or a Tom Brady would be awesome.
FS: What NFL quarterbacks in the game today would you say you’ve patterned your game after? Who do you see having a comparable skill set to yours?
BM: Between Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
FS: Lastly, your story from being two-time walk-on at Texas Tech and Oklahoma to a Heisman Trophy winner is something we’ve never seen in college football. It’s certainly inspiring. What is the life lesson we can all take away from your college football journey?
BM: I don’t think it’s just a lesson from college football, but can translate into life. It’s just never give up, but most importantly, it’s not about what happens, it’s about how you react to it. You know, things are going to hit you hard in life, but it’s how you bounce back. Life’s not always a perfect little ride, it’s a roller coaster. There’s ups and downs. But how you react to those instances, you know, when you’re in your darkest times. If you don’t, they define who you are.