Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN & ESPN App), Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield surely will be named the winner of the 83rd Heisman Trophy — a moment that will mark the culmination of one of the most improbable rises in college football history.
Mayfield didn’t start the season opener of his high school junior year.
He walked on at Texas Tech.
And he transferred to Oklahoma without invitation, much less a scholarship.
Yet all along the way, Mayfield defied the odds, utilizing unrivaled self-confidence and unmatched competitive spirit. Tom Herman, coach of the rival Longhorns, calls Mayfield college football’s “ultimate competitor.”
That ubercompetitive, ultraconfident mentality, full of trash-talking, flag-planting — and in one case, crotch-grabbing — swagger has ruffled Mayfield’s opponents over the years.
But as he has backed up his bold antics with a dazzling and continuous display of quarterbacking magic, Mayfield has also won over many of those same opponents. And having gone from an undersized, under-recruited afterthought to one of ?college football’s greatest-ever quarterbacks, Mayfield has earned the respect and admiration of the opposition, as well.
Told through the viewpoint of those he has competed against for wins and positions, this is Mayfield’s story, from high school all the way to the Heisman.
Chris Ross remembers all too well the play that convinced him Mayfield was different from all the quarterbacks he’d coached against before. In the fourth round of the Texas Class 4A state playoffs, Ross and Cedar Park faced Mayfield in a rematch from the regular season. Because the teams knew each other well, the game turned into a defensive struggle. Mayfield, however, would deliver the game-turning pass Ross says he’ll “never forget.”
“We blitz a guy through the A-gap, and he’s unblocked,” said Ross, now on the staff at Boise State. “Baker sees it, slides right into the hit and throws an absolute dart, a touchdown pass, and wins the game. Our guy knocked him out of the game, too.
“How many kids are going to step up and take that hit? As the opposing coach, there’s nothing else you can do. It was an unbelievable play only somebody like a Baker Mayfield could make.”
That 2011 season actually began with Mayfield watching from the sidelines. But on the fifth play of Lake Travis’ opener, starter Collin Lagasse suffered an injury that catapulted Mayfield into the lineup against rival Westlake in Texas’ Darrell K Royal-Memorial…