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Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield talks revenge on Texas, missing baseball and more

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield didn’t win the Heisman Trophy in 2015. He didn’t even get invited to New York for the festivities.

He did win the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top player who began his career as a walk-on.

OK, so that’s a bit obscure. Mayfield, however, is anything but obscure. Oklahoma’s flashy quarterback returned to the field a year ago after sitting out 2014 as a transfer from Texas Tech and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield is back again, ready to lead a Sooner charge and perhaps even set himself up to strike a pose …

This story and more is available in the Athlon Sports 2016 Big 12 Preview, available now on newsstands and in our online store.

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Could you score on Buddy Hield in a basketball game of one-on-one?

Absolutely not. Despite my athleticism, put me on a basketball court and it’ll all disappear. No, not against the best player in the country.

Could you play another college sport?

Baseball. I really am missing baseball. Going to the games and watching (former OU football player) Cody Thomas play makes me miss it. In high school, I was the only junior to start on the field for our baseball team. The spot that was open was first base and I wound up playing first base for the first time in my life. Then my senior year, I kind of played anywhere on the infield where they needed me, mostly at third, although I mixed it up a little bit. I was actually going to play when I was at Texas Tech. I had talked to coach Tim Tadlock; he had seen me play in high school and was all for it. I was set on doing it, but obviously I wasn’t there for the spring and things changed. And football kind of became the primary sport when I got here.

Could you play another position in football?

I could put on weight and go try and play linebacker. Or I could lose weight and try and play inside receiver. I think I could find a spot.

What was your favorite moment from last season?

There were a couple good moments. But winning the Big 12 championship against Oklahoma State was a good one. We really just had fun. Also, the Kansas State win. It was kind of the turning moment in our season, and we all enjoyed it. There were times when we were playing well. But when everybody was having fun at the same time would be my favorites.

What about the Kansas State game made it a turning point, and what did it do for you guys moving forward?

We realized what we were capable of. If we’d just go out and execute our job, nobody could hang with us. And that became our mindset. We realized, ‘Well, if we’re going to do this thing, we need to grind every week at a time and we’ll get to where we need to be.’ And that became our goal.

When you transfer into a program, what’s that like, and is there a sense that you have to go earn the other players’ trust?

Oh yeah, there definitely is. There’s a sense, being the new guy. It was a little different for me, since I had played a good amount the season before I came to Oklahoma. And some of the defensive guys had seen my film, just because of the scouting they did against Texas Tech. But other than that, I had to come in and earn every part of the respect I needed on the offensive side of the ball. And then, I knew that the defense would have to deal with me on scout team, so I didn’t worry too much about that. It was just about practicing with the offense.

How difficult was it knowing you could play at this level, yet having to wait to show it?

It’s pretty disappointing. It’s frustrating, especially since I’d played my first year, then had to sit out after that. And knowing that I had done it before kind of made it more frustrating, having to redshirt a year after you’ve played.

What’s the most valuable thing the team learned on the way through last season?

Never to be satisfied. I think when we figured out that we were never good enough or we hadn’t figured everything out, that was when we always learned to work for a win one week at a time and just focus on that goal.

Have you watched the Orange Bowl?

Yes, I have.

What’s it like to watch a game like that, one that ends your season and doesn’t go the way you want?

It’s frustrating watching those types of games, knowing they did nothing to stop us. We did everything. We left a lot on the field, made a bunch of mistakes. We had a penalty in the first half to stop a drive. I turned the ball over twice, which was very unlike me. And I did it in a big game, which I can’t do. I need to take care of the ball. And it’s frustrating to see that if we would have played the way we should have, we would have won. But the better team won that day. And they went on to the national championship.

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Which Big 12 team would you enjoy beating the most next season?

Texas. After last year, not playing very well against them, we need to go out and play a lot better.

Anything you feel like you have to do better in 2016?

I need to keep taking care of the ball. And just pushing my guys every week to never be satisfied and to work for it each week, and to realize if we really want it, that’s how it has to be.

You guys are replacing a couple of key guys on the offensive line. Do you have a role in helping bring those guys along?

I do, just showing what’s to be expected around here. We have three guys who started the whole season coming back. I mean, we’re losing key leadership up front, losing Nila (Kasitati) and Ty (Darlington). It’s never ideal. Those guys were around here and played for a long time. But those other three guys who are coming back, they have full seasons of experience under their belt. They have to come into their own, and we expect them to be huge leaders for our offense, so they have to grow up quickly.

As a leader yourself, how do you express that?

There’s different types of leaders. There are vocal, which I’d say I am. There’s non-vocal types of leaders, like Samaje (Perine). And we’re both in that stage of our careers where we’re the older guys around the program. And Samaje, he just goes about his business and everybody watches what he does. He doesn’t have to say anything, he’s always doing the right thing. And people watching, they can learn from that. I’m a type where I can get on guys. If they’re not doing it right, I’ll tell them to pick it up. If they’re doing well, congratulate them and tell them to keep doing well, it’s not going unnoticed. Things like that go a long way.

You’ve been described as a gunslinger. Is that a tag a Texas guy can really embrace?

I think so. I enjoy it. Coming from an offense like this, if you aren’t described as a gunslinger, something’s wrong, with as many times as we throw it. I’ll take it.

You play with a lot of flair. Is that a reflection of how much fun you’re having on the field?

It definitely is. I truly have a love for the game. It’s a lot better than going to workouts or having to go through practice. Every Saturday that we get an opportunity to go out there and play, I enjoy. And I try to express that every time I can.

Who’s the best defensive player you’ve faced?

I’d have to say a couple of them from our team last year, between Eric Striker and Charles Tapper. My freshman year, when I was at Texas Tech, I played against Jason Verrett, the TCU corner who’s with the San Diego Chargers right now. He was probably one of the best defensive backs I’ve ever played against. He never let up. It didn’t matter who was over there, who he was covering, he was locking them down. And he’d bring the pop when he was hitting people.

What stadium, other than your own, have you enjoyed playing in the most?

You can’t beat the Cotton Bowl. There’s nothing like that. But last year when we went to play Tennessee in Neyland Stadium, that was probably the best game experience I’ve had and probably will ever have. That’s a different type of loud. I can’t even describe it. It was unbelievable.

What’s your take on the Bedlam rivalry?

It’s something different. Being from Texas, I always thought the OU-Texas rivalry was the bigger one. Then when I got up here, I realized how much of a hatred the two schools have for each other. It’s different for me, because I wasn’t born into that. But I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing all the writing when Bedlam week comes along. I have a lot of fun with it.

The Sooners were a little bit of a surprise last year. Will being the target affect the team’s approach this season?

It needs to. When you go 8–5 one year, it’s easy to be very motivated when people say you’re not very good, or that you’re not a part of the national championship picture. Now it’s a sense of people congratulating you and saying you should be there. You can’t be entitled or get complacent in thinking that you’re just going to show up and be in the final four at the end of the year. You’re going to have to work for it. It’s kind of the mentality we had after the Kansas State win. It has to be one week at a time and we’re never good enough.

How cool was it that the Sooners were the first team to make the Final Four in both football and basketball?

I think it’s pretty sweet, especially in the same year. It’s been a pretty special athletic year around here. Getting to watch those guys on the court was so fun.

You’ve been frequently seen dancing on videos. How good of a dancer are you?

Mediocre, at best. It gets a little blown out of proportion. I’m not bad, but it gets blown out of proportion. It’s all a little much.

What coach, other than Bob Stoops, could you see yourself playing for?

I’ve always been a fan of Mike Leach. When he was recruiting me to Washington State when I was in high school, he was just a funny guy. He had the kind of carefree attitude that it didn’t matter what anybody told him, he was just going to go out and do his job. I always kind of related to that. I could see myself playing for him.

A good coach for a gunslinger to play for, right?

Yeah, definitely.