Judging a players career can be a very subjective opinion. Now, when trying to determine an all-time great in history of a storied program that also comes with great scrutiny. Many times the ultimate measurable is a national or conference championship. Other times it can be yards, touchdowns and points. Join us as we walk through the career of Baker Mayfield and think through as we fast forward 10 years from now how he will be remembered.
How did Baker Mayfield end up at Oklahoma?
Coming out of Lake Travis High School in Texas, Mayfield was a decorated prep star. In two years as starter, he led Lake Travis to a state championship in 2011. As a starter, he had a 25-2 record overall. Mayfield had the stats to be a natural star at the next level. Most noteworthy, Mayfield threw for 6,255 yards with 67 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. With that being said, Mayfield did not have the athletic scholarship offers coming his way.
Mayfield decided to walk on to Texas Tech in 2013 to begin his college career. On the surface, this appeared to be a wise choice for Mayfield as he would get an opportunity to play under the watchful eye of Kliff Kingsbury. Due to injuries, Mayfield was named the starting Quarterback in 2013. As a result, Mayfield became the first true freshman walk on to start a football game in FBS history. He did not disappoint in that start either. Starting against fellow Lake Travis alum Garrett Gilbert, Mayfield stole the show. In a 41-23 victory over SMU, Mayfield completed 43 of 60 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
On the negative side, Mayfield was injured twice once against TCU and again facing Kansas. The injury against Kansas would mark the beginning of the end of Mayfield’s career in a Texas Tech uniform. Davis Webb took over as starting quarterback for the Red Raiders and would not relinquish that spot. Even so, Mayfield would become the Big 12 conference player of the year. The future looked bright but Mayfield became disgruntled when he was not offered a scholarship and decided to leave the Texas Tech program. As a result, Mayfield would look elsewhere.
The Oklahoma Transition
Baker Mayfield enrolled at the University of Oklahoma in January in 2014. In the eyes of fans, media and even administration this was a curious move. Oklahoma had just completed a remarkable two game run to end the season with defeats over Oklahoma State and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Trevor Knight had one of the best performances in a bowl game by a Sooner in recent memory and was only a sophomore. With Knight fully entrenched as the starter and players like Cody Thomas and Kendall Thompson waiting in the wings it seemed a bit arrogant that Mayfield could step in and run this team. In February, head coach Bob Stoops announced that Baker Mayfield would be walking on at Oklahoma.
Fast forward to August of 2015, Baker Mayfield was announced as the opening day starter for Oklahoma. With that start, it didn’t take Mayfield long to begin making his mark as a Sooner. The Sooners found themselves down 17-3 in the fourth quarter in Rocky Top. Oklahoma’s offense had struggled to get anything going and was looking for a little Sooner Magic. Mayfield orchestrated Oklahoma to back to back touchdown drives to tie the game in regulation. In overtime, Mayfield would connect with Sterling Shepard for a 18-yard touchdown pass that would prove to be the game winner.
Later in 2015, the Sooners were trying to insert themselves back into the playoff discussion after a mid-year setback to Texas. Oklahoma was visiting undefeated Baylor who was number six in the country and primed for a playoff spot and big twelve championship for the first time in program history. Mayfield was incredible as he connected on 24 of 34 passes for with three touchdowns. He also had 76 yards and another touchdown on the ground as Oklahoma went into Waco and defeated the Baylor Bears. This game was important for many reasons. It put the Sooners back on the map as a national title contender after a couple of seasons of being on the outside looking in. Also, this put Mayfield in his first season with Oklahoma as a serious Heisman Trophy contender.
Finally, to finish the 2015 regular season, Mayfield led his Sooners into Stillwater to face Oklahoma State with a conference championship and a possible playoff berth on the line. Oklahoma dominated the contest as Mayfield contributed 257 total yards of offense and three scores. With the 58-23 victory, Oklahoma would secure a spot in the playoff and a conference championship.
Mayfield Continues His Tremendous Play
Hopes were sky high coming into the 2016 campaign for the Sooners. Oklahoma came in ranked number three in the country and Mayfield was a Heisman favorite. However, Oklahoma got off to an inauspicious start. The Sooners started 1-2 with losses to Houston and Ohio State.
Mayfield led the charge as Oklahoma would win ten consecutive games to win another conference championship and he would finish third in the Heisman voting in 2016. Along the way, Mayfield won one of the best offensive slug-fests in recent memory as Oklahoma defeated Texas Tech 66-59. Mayfield just had the second best single season passing record at the history of the program. He threw for 545 yards and threw seven touchdown passes in the win.
Finally, with a conference championship on the line against the in-state rival, Mayfield would be counted on to lead the Sooners. Be that as it may, Mayfield had a couple of things working against him in this game though. He was working against the weather which was rainy and cold but he also was working against an injury to fellow Heisman finalist DeDe Westbrook who was knocked out early in the game. Mayfield and the Sooners dominated the second half to the tune of a 38-20 victory. Mayfield threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns as Oklahoma won back-to-back conference championships.
There was an aura of uncertainty heading into the 2017 season. Mayfield was returning for his senior season, but Oklahoma was faced with replacing key players at the skill position. Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook all graduated needing new, young players to step up. Aside from that, Oklahoma would usher in a new head coach. With Bob Stoops retirement, Lincoln Riley had ascended as head coach.
In the second game of the year, Oklahoma traveled to Columbus to take on Ohio State. A year ago the Buckeyes dominated Oklahoma. Mayfield had arguably his worst performance as a Sooner in turning the ball over twice. On one the greatest stages in College Football, Mayfield shined the brightest. He threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns as Oklahoma beat Ohio State in dominating fashion. As a result, the win moved Oklahoma to number two in the country. On the other hand, Oklahoma struggled to one of those strange losses against Iowa State just weeks later.
The Final Chapter
How will Baker Mayfield be remembered as a Sooner quarterback? Thinking through his career path, his leadership is unquestioned. It’s important to realize that Mayfield will go down as one of the best leaders not in only Oklahoma history, but college football history. He is brash, cocky and sometimes comes off as a jerk but that is exactly what this Sooner program needed. Conversely, he came at a time when Oklahoma was lacking leadership and an identity on offense. Mayfield has single handedly won several games over the last three years as a Sooner. The proclamation by Mayfield was that he wanted to come back to win a national championship. As a result, this season has been much like his teams over the last three years, great at times and other times unexplained losses.
Although, Oklahoma is on the outside looking in at the playoffs the stage is set for Mayfield. Oklahoma has three ranked opponents remaining this year. That will go to four if the Sooners are able to make it to the conference championship. Win out and the dreams of winning a national championship may be a possibility. Comparatively, lose and go down as the best quarterback at the school that never got a chance to play for a national championship. The time is now, Baker. How will you write your name as a Sooner great? Whether we see flag planting, pregame dancing or daddy references one thing for certain is that you won’t want to miss how this story ends.