Tuesday, June 12, 2018
The Browns chose Baker Mayfield as their top pick in the NFL draft.
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Baker Reagan Mayfield. He's named for a male friend of his mother's, who had the name Baker. His father balked at the name, and declared he'd approve only if he could give his son Ronald Reagan's name. She agreed.
He attended Lake Travis High School in Lake Travis, an unincorporated area southwest of Austin. It is extremely liberal, 48 percent white, 35 percent Hispanic, and wealthy (median income is over $58,000 a year). Despite its wealth, 17 percent of the population lives in poverty.
The Mayfields lived in a wealthy pocket of Lake Travis. Baker has an older brother, Matt, who was a walk-on baseball player in college. Baker grew up watching cartoons on Saturday morning and sports on ESPN, and playing hide-and-seek with the family. (It's a family tradition, and one they still engage in.) Cooking together as a family was important. As kids, Baker and Matt would ride dirt bikes up and down two artificial dirt hills their father built for them in a nearby field.
Baker's mother, Gina, attended the University of Houston and is a runner. His father, James, played quarterback and was a punter for the University of Houston. James founded Camwood Capital Group, an Austin-based buyout company. Gina and Matt both work for the firm.
Baker Mayfield grew up a Sooners fan. He idolizes his older brother, who has a huge influence on him. James and Gina Mayfield pushed their sons to be super-competitive. School, sports, board games: It didn't matter. Competing was everything.
Lake Travis is a three-year high school. Baker was only 5'2" his sophomore year, but grew eight inches over the summer. Nevertheless, he was still shorter than most quarterbacks and shorter than LT's starting QB, Collin LaGasse. When LaGasse suffered a season-ending injury early in his first game in 2011, Mayfield took over. He led 4A Lake Travis that year to a 16-0 record and the 2011 4A State Championship. His production his senior year fell off by almost a third in pass yardage and by more than half in TDs. The team's record fell to 9-2 as injuries hollowed the lineup, but Mayfield hung in there despite being hammered a lot. (Lake Travis was reclassified 5A in 2013, and 6A in 2015.) Mayfield made an unofficial commitment to Oklahoma University in high school, but OU coaches were unimpressed.
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Baker's rankings as a college recruit were middling. He only received three out of five stars from 247Sports, Scout, and Rivals, and ESPN gave him a grade of 70 (out a possible 100). Mayfield brags that a five-star collegiate football program recruited him, but most people say few schools showed any real interest except for Washington State. Other schools which showed interest include Florida International, New Mexico, TCU, and Houston.
Mayfield did not sign with any school. Instead, he attended Texas Tech, which had one of the lowest in-state tuitions. His parents lived with in-laws for two years so that he could attend Texas Tech.
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Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech, and won the starting quarterback job. He became the first walk-on true freshman quarterback to start a season opener at a BCS school. Texas Tech is a middling five-star program facing some much bigger schools in the Big 12 Conference. Mayfield led the team to a 4-0 record, but was twisted his right knee in the third quarter of the fifth game. The team went 2-5 over its next eight games. Mayfield returned for the last game, which he won. This left Texas Tech with an 7-5 record overall, 4-5 conference. Ranked sixth in the conference, Texas Tech went to the Holiday Bowl and won. There were some mixed signs in Baker's performance that year, as he threw a whopping nine interceptions.
Mayfield claims he was healthy several weeks before returning to the field. He says coach Kliff Kingsbury did not communicate with him when he was injured, while he was recuperating, or afterward.
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During the holiday break, Mayfield was so angry that he decided to leave Texas Tech.
Under Big 12 and NCAA rules, walk-on athletes without scholarships are permitted to transfer and not lose a year if and only if the first school gives its permission in writing. Texas Tech refused. Everyone was shocked, Mayfield most of all. Mayfield appealed to the Big 12, and lost. He appealed to the NCAA, and lost. His parents hired an attorney.
It was to no avail. Mayfield was forced to sit out the 2014 season, losing a year of eligibility. The Sooners went 8-5 under QB Trevor Knight, and were unranked.
In May 2015, Mayfield's mother and aunt were in a serious automobile accident while on vacation in South Carolina. Three others died.
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In August 2015, Mayfield beat Knight and OU back-up quarterback Cody Thomas -- both taller, broader, and heavier -- to win the starting job. Mayfield led OU to an 11-1 record, 8-1 conference. The team went to the Orange Bowl, where they lost to Clemson. OU ended up ranked fifth in the nation.
Mayfield finished the year with 3,700 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He had a Football Bowl Subdivision pass-efficiency rating of 196.4 -- a record. Mayfield placed fourth in Heisman Trophy voting that year.
At the end of the season, Mayfield took some shots at TCU coach Gary Patterson, accusing him of promising a scholarship in 2013 and then yanking the offer just before National Signing Day. Mayfield claimed he "turned away" other offers because of TCU's promise. Patterson denied it wholesale, saying TCU told Mayfield he wasn't getting a scholarship the first week of January. Patterson then accused Mayfield of stealing TCU's signals and called Baker's dad "an arrogant guy who thinks he knows everything".
At the end of the year, Lubbock sports columnist Don Williams wrote a scathing column in which he called Mayfield a publicity hog and ego-maniac, and all but declared him and his father liars. He declared James Mayfield an "uber-involved" meddler who wanted special treatment for his boy.
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In June 2016, the Big 12 finally altered its rule, permitting walk-ons without written scholarships to transfer without permission. The rule was applied retroactively, allowing Mayfield to play one more year at OU. (TCU was awarded an extra scholarship during the process to compensate the program for Mayfield's departure.)
Mayfield led OU to a 10-2 record overall, 9-0 in conference. The team won its second consecutive Big 12 championship in a row. Oklahoma played in the Sugar Bowl that year against Auburn, and blew them out 35-19.
Mayfield ended the season throwing for 3,965 yards, 40 TDs, and 8 interceptions. He had a 203.8 pass efficiency rating, another FBS record. Mayfield was once more a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He finished third in the voting.
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In February 2017, Mayfield was visiting friends with his girlfriend, Morgan Mayberry, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. They went to a Chinese restaurant, and Baker got drunk. Another patron tried to steal some food from the restaurant. A scuffle broke out, and Baker had some food thrown at his chest. He and another man started having words. Someone called the police. Mayfield attempted to flee, and a police officer caught and tackled him. Mayfield was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing, and resisting arrest. Mayfield pled guilty, and was sentenced to community service and forced to attend an alcohol education program.
In the fall of 2017, Mayfield led Oklahoma to an 11-1 record overall, 8-1 in conference play. OU handily beat TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game, 41-17. It was Mayfield's third consecutive Big 12 championship. Oklahoma was the 2nd seed in the 2017 College Football Playoff. The team lost to third-seeded Georgia in the Rose Bowl, 48-54 in double-overtime.
Mayfield ended the 2017 season throwing for 4,340 yards, including 41 TDs and 5 interceptions. He set yet another FBS pass efficiency record, with a 203.8 rating. Throughout the season, Mayfield stiff-armed or blocked many larger and heavier defenders, suggesting uncanny strength for someone who is only 6'1" tall and only weighs 220 pounds.
Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in December 2017.
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Several controversies dogged Mayfield during the 2017 season.
On September 9, OU played Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State was then ranked second in the nation, and OU fifth. Ohio had trounced Oklahoma the previous season, spanking them 45-24. This time, it was Ohio's turn to be embarassed -- and before a home crowd of almost 110,000, Mayfield drilled the Buckeyes, 31-16. After the game, Mayfield planted the Oklahoma University flag in the middle of the painted "O" at Ohio Buckeye's stadium after then win. He was widely criticized for unsportsmanlike behavior, and issued an apology.
On September 23, OU and Baylor University players got into a tussle during pre-game warm-up drills. After the scuffle broke up, Mayfield taunted the Baylor team, shouting "You forgot who daddy is! I'm gonna have to spank you today!" A 48-yard touchdown pass quieted the rowdy Baylor fans, and Mayfield taunted them again by pretending to listen for their cheers. OU won the game, 49-41.
On October 1, during warm-ups, Mayfield drilled a TCU player in the head with a football. OU staff said the TCU players were running through Oklahoma's warmup drills, and it was an accident. TCU coach Gary Patterson claimed Mayfield did it out of spite.
On October 15, the captains of the University of Kansas Jayhawks refused to shake hands with Mayfield after the coin toss. During the game, Mayfield became upset about cheap shots he felt the Jayhawks had taken at him. OU blew out Kansas, 56-3. Retaliating against the slights and attacks, Mayfield grabbed his crotch and shook his junk while shouting "fuck you!" at the Jayhawks coach. At the press conference after the game, he told Kansas fans to "go cheer on basketball". Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley punished Mayfield by not starting him or allowing him to be team captain in the upcoming game against West Virginia.
On October 28, when Oklahoma played Texas Tech, Mayfield walked into the stadium wearing a t-shirt that said "traitor" -- a taunt to Tech fans. OU won the game, 49-27.
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Baker Mayfield is immensely charismatic. Almost everyone who has met him says so. His teammates and coaches call him a natural leader, someone very attentive to others and their needs and who easily identifies problems and tries to help others overcome them.
While living in a dorm his sophomore year, he actively participated in dorm life. His roommate was a comp sci major who knew nothing about football; they bonded. (A year later, once Mayfield was quarterback and team captain, he brought a group of his friends -- none of whom knew a thing about football -- to a team meeting and introduced them all.)
He is extremely friendly and easygoing. He loves small children, and spends time visting disabled kids on his own. He likes to cook breakfast every day. He is unpolished and natural.
He likes Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Aggravation (the marble game), and Halo (the video game).
He has played hurt and never complained. He has never let some of the most hostile environments in college football get to him. He galvanized his team, and stepped up strongly when confronted with adversity. He is considered one of the smartest football players in the nation, a swift learner, and fearless.
He's super-competitive, and has a massive inferiority complex. "That chip on his shoulder is not made up for show; that's as real as it gets," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has said. "That chip is about the size of this room. It's him. It's not fake. And it's all the time."
Almost everyone who knows him agrees: The best way to fire up Baker Mayfield is to say "you can't do it".
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There are worries that Baker Mayfield is nothing more than a system quarterback.
There are worries that OU's Air Raid offense magnified Mayfield’s strengths and obscured his weaknesses.
There are worries that Mayfield has never been challenged by any teams in the Big 12, most of which had porous defenses.
The Cleveland Browns are going to find out if any of that's true.