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The Incredible Rise of Baker Mayfield: From Walk-On to Top QB

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Baker Mayfield. From Walk-On to Top QB.

From walk-on, to Heisman Trophy winner, to one of the best QB prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield has had an incredible journey. Mayfield’s story that has been overlooked by some, but Mayfield has had to overcome major obstacles to get where he is today.

High School

Coming out of High School, Mayfield had a lot in his way. To start, he was only 6′ 1″, 190 pounds. This is not the prototypical size big time programs were looking for. Mayfield was the 1029th nationally ranked recruit by 247Sports, and was listed with a mediocre 4.80s 40-yard dash. Mayfield did not have the physical traits, nor the pedigree, to help him stand out. What Mayfield did have was production. In his two years as a starter for Lake Travis HS, Mayfield threw for 6197 yards (completing 64.9% of his passes), with 69 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. He also added 920 yards on the ground with 11 scores. These weren’t the best numbers known to man, but Mayfield’s production in High School showed a glimpse of how he could be an effective dual-threat QB.

Mayfield, in 2012, during his senior season of High School. (Jay Plotkin/Medley Photo)

Betting on Himself

Mayfield, a native of Austin, TX, was rated a three-star prospect (247Sports). Mayfield was considered the No. 160 recruit coming out of Texas, with offers from Rice, Florida Atlantic, and New Mexico. Instead of taking an offer from any of these three schools, Mayfield decided to walk-on to Texas Tech. This was a bold move, and one that shows the belief Mayfield had in himself (and still has in himself). Heading into the season, expected starting Quarterback Michael Brewer suffered an injury. The QB race was open, and Mayfield took advantage. Mayfield won the job, and was given the chance to start Week 1 of the 2013 Season.

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Mayfield, a true freshman, starting for Texas Tech in 2013. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Taking the FBS by Storm, as a True Freshman

Baker Mayfield was the first true freshman walk-on to start a FBS season opener at QB. Mayfield won his first start, against SMU, and the next four games after that. In that stretch, the Red Raiders were 5-0, and Mayfield was playing well. Mayfield nearly 1,500 yards and passer rating near 150.

An injury in Week 5 that cut Mayfield’s run short. Mayfield was kept sidelined for the next seven weeks, and handed the starting-gig to fellow freshman QB Davis Webb. Texas Tech went on to go 2-5 in those games. The downgrade was clear when Mayfield was not on the field. Mayfield apparently healed up quickly, but was buried in the depth chart. He was ready to return after a few weeks,  but Mayfield wasn’t given the chance to start again until the Raiders dropped 5 of 7 games in his absence. Mayfield and his coach, Kliff Kingsbury, were not on the same page. Mayfield shared his side of the story with ESPN:

“When I got hurt, there was no communication between me and my coach,” Mayfield told ESPN. “When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was.”

Time for a Change

When Mayfield did finally get back on the field, he didn’t know “how short the leash would be.” Mayfield was given the chance to start the last few games of the regular season, but chemistry was lost and the team lost both games. Mayfield announced that he would be transferring in December 2013. The discontent he had with his coach, and the organization, was evident. Mayfield had stated that Texas Tech had not offered him a scholarship for the spring semester. This was absurd considering the season he had, and the promise he showed as a true freshman. FBS teams are allowed 85 scholarships a year, and with Mayfield not receiving one of those, he decided to move on.

Plus, there was a ton of talent Texas Tech already had on their roster at QB. The other Freshman QB on the roster, Davis Webb, had overtaken Mayfield for the backup spot, and Patrick Mahomes was in line to be the 2014 starter (and won that job). Despite Mayfield’s impressive freshman performance (2,315 yards, 64% completions, 12 touchdowns) in only 8 games, he was moving on.

The Transfer to Oklahoma

Mayfield enrolled to Oklahoma in January of 2014; head coach Bob Stoops took in the promising Mayfield with open arms. Since he transfered within the Big-12, Mayfield was forced to give up a year of eligibility thanks to a conference rule. Long story short, things got messy in Mayfield’s transfer process; Texas Tech acted childish.

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Mayfield sitting out during the 2014 season. (OU Photos)

At the time of his transfer it was said that Mayfield would have to sit out of the 2014 season, and forfeit his sophomore year of eligibility. By doing so, he would be able to return for the following two years (2015 and 2016). Well, this was unfortunate, but Mayfield kept moving forward. He sat out for a year, and came back in 2015 and won Oklahoma’s starting QB job. He played well, really well, during his first year as the Sooners starter. Mayfield threw for 3700 yards and 37 Touchdowns, while completing 68.1% of his passes and only throwing 7 interceptions. Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting that season.

The Big 12 later tweaked its rule to prevent Mayfield from losing a year

In the summer of 2016 (following Mayfield’s 2015 campaign), the Big 12 made a rule change that allowed some walk-ons to transfer within the conference without losing eligibility. Mayfield’s case was covered in this rule change. It was covered because he hadn’t received a written scholarship offer from Texas Tech. Funny how that worked out for Mayfield in the end.

The Big 12’s rule change granted Mayfield a third season of play for the Sooners. Without the change, Mayfield would have had to be a graduate transfer outside of the conference to play in 2017.

Right after the Big 12 announced the rule change, Mayfield shared his thoughts in on Twitter:

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(Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Mayfield’s 2016 Season was Sweet

Baker Mayfield had a terrific 2016 season, where he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and tossed 40 TDs, with only 8 interceptions. Mayfield did this while completing 70.9% of his passes and averaging over 11 yards per attempt. Mayfield’s performance during the  2016 season was enough to have him finish third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Also, Mayfield led the Sooners to a 11-2 record, which included dismantling Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma taking down Auburn 35-19 was a sweet way to end the season.

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Sugar Bowl MVP Baker Mayfield (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Coming Back for One Last Ride

After his 2016 campaign, Baker Mayfield was generating NFL interest. Although, due to him being “under-sized” and having “questionable character”, it wasn’t very substantial. Mayfield was pegged by many as a mid-round prospect heading into the 2017 season. This description was fair at the time, but Mayfield’s senior year changed that. Mayfield’s play in 2017 had him soaring up draft boards. Why? Three words: Production, Passion, and Purpose.

Mayfield’s production (4627 yards, 70.5% completions, 11.5 yard per attempt, 43 TDs, 6 Interceptions) was good enough to lead Oklahoma to a 12-2 record, and was enough to win himself the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

Mayfield’s passion for the game led to some questionable decisions at times, but overall his desire to be great and win will help him tremendously at the next level. Mayfield’s teammates and coaches love him, and his opposition hates him. Mayfield’s road to stardom was tough, and because of it he plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is a winner, and a competitor.

Mayfield’s purpose in football is to win games. He is a winner, and doesn’t shine away from big moments. Mayfield wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line, and he is out there to do everything he can to win a game.

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Mayfield in 2017, smashing a Sooners flag down in the center of Ohio State’s field following a win. (Kyle Robertson/TNS)

Top QB Prospect

Mayfield won the 2017 Heisman following his senior year, and there was no looking back from there. Mayfield has performed extremely well in his draft process, and has cemented himself as a First Round Pick. Mayfield will be drafted early, and could go as high as pick #3 to the Jets.

Mayfield is now a top QB prospect, and he rose to stardom starting as a walk-on at Texas Tech. Who would have thought.

Thanks for reading!

Check out our other articles to see where we have Mayfield ranked, and where we have him being drafted:
2018 NFL Mock Draft: Updated projections with Trades
2018 NFL Draft Big Board: Top 50 Prospects Post-Combine (w/ Gifs)
2018 NFL Draft Position Rankings: Post-Combine (w/ GIFS)

Sources: sbnation, latimes.com, sports-refrence.com. Images used are not mine, all rights reserved to their owners. 
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Torre Avitabile View All

Founder and writer for Front Row Football (2018-present).
Writer for Armed Rodgery (2016-2017).

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