Baker Mayfield Deserving of All the Way-Too-Early Heisman Hype

Oct 15, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks to pass the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second quarter at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks to pass the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second quarter at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

Three of the so-called Four Horseman of Oklahoma football for the 2016 season and now off pursuing careers at the next level, but the triggerman for all the Sooners’ gridiron success last season is still in place and looking for bigger and better things next fall.

We’re speaking, of course, of starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, who will be back in 2017 for his third season as the Sooner starting QB. And for whom much is spoken about, much will be expected of the All-Big 12 First-Team selection, who was once a walk on at two different schools.

Mayfield is the key piece in Oklahoma’s chances of winning a third consecutive Big 12 championship. And it is certainly no coincidence that the Sooners have won back-to-back conference titles in the two seasons he has been the Sooners’ quarterback.

Like a fine wine, Mayfield has gotten better over time. His performance loudly speaks for itself. His debut season as the OU starting quarterback, a job he won over Trevor Knight, Mayfield passed for 3,700 yards, completing 68 percent of his pass attempts, and threw 36 touchdown passes with seven interceptions.

He was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, and his numbers got even better the following season. In 2016, his second full season in offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense, Mayfield’s numbers got even better.

This past season he led the nation with a completion percentage of 70.9 and set a new Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) single-season record with a pass-efficiency rating of 196.4, almost five points higher than the previous mark. He ranked second on the country in yards per completion (15.6) and fourth in both pass completions of at least 40 yards (22) and average points responsible for in a game (21.5).

In both 2015 and 2016, Mayfield was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, an award that has been won by five former Oklahoma players, including two quarterbacks who played for Bob Stoops (Jason White in 2003 and Sam Bradford in 2008). And a third quarterback who played for Stoops at OU, Josh Heupel, was the Heisman runner-up in 2000.

Mayfield finished fourth in the voting for the 2015 Heisman, won by Alabama running back Derrick Henry, and he was third behind Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, quarterback for Louisville, and Clemson QB Deshaun Watson this past season.

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It is hard to believe, with all the success and national attention he has gotten in his two seasons at Oklahoma, that Mayfield began his college career four seasons ago as a walk-on at Texas Tech.

Mayfield is a leading candidate on the Heisman watch list for 2017. And if form holds true, he will almost certainly make another strong run for it. The leading candidates for next season’s Heisman, according to at least one Las Vegas sports book, are three quarterbacks.

The 2017 Heisman front runner, at this early stage, is sophomore Sam Darnold of USC. The Bovada sports book has Darnold at 4:1 odds, well in front of Mayfield and reigning Heisman winner Jackson, both listed at 13:2 odds.

Mayfield’s on-field performance is worthy of all the accolades he has received to date. His career journey to where he is now is equally compelling.

Here is the rest of the story:

As a walk-on at Texas Tech, Mayfield played in eight games and started seven at quarterback for the Red Raiders. In his one season at Tech, he had more pass attempts and completed more passes than any Big 12 freshman since OU’s Landry Jones in 2009.

As a result of a falling out with the Red Raider coaching staff, Mayfield elected to transfer and choice Oklahoma as his landing spot. That selection wasn’t as random as it might seem, however.

Mayfield was a big fan of Oklahoma football growing up in the Austin, Texas, area, something that many would consider sacrilegious growing up in the heart of Texas Longhorn country. As much as Mayfield was a fan of Sooner football growing up, though, OU did not reciprocate with a scholarship offer in assembling its 2013 recruiting class.

You can bet, however, that they were happy to welcome him on board for the spring semester of 2014. Even then, though, he was not awarded a scholarship. Despite that, Mayfield elected to walk on to the OU football program and with the full understanding that he would have to sit out the 2014 season because of Big 12 and NCAA transfer rules.

Mayfield made a name for himself at Oklahoma even before he became a member of the active roster.

He was one of the stars of the annual spring game in 2014, even though he was ineligible to play that fall. During his year of ineligibility, Mayfield was named the Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year, a foretelling of things that were to come.

Regardless of however the Heisman race turns out in the new season this fall, there is one sure thing that all Sooner fans can take to the bank: Baker Mayfield, the former walk-on, will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in OU football history.