ARLINGTON, Texas — From walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner to No. 1 overall pick. Baker Mayfield’s fairy-tale football story continued Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns made him the top selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mayfield, who joins defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon (1976), running back Billy Sims (1980) and quarterback Sam Bradford (2010) as Oklahoma players to go No. 1 overall, watched the draft with family, friends and his former OU head coaches at his parents’ house in his hometown of Austin.
“Been a long journey to get here; a lot of work,” said Mayfield after the selection. “So when I’m sitting there on the couch (for the draft), the thoughts running through my head as I start looking around at everybody in the room, a bunch of different people who have been there at different stages of my life. From the very beginning, obviously, my immediate family, then the friends and coaches and people who have helped shape me. It was everybody that was a part of the whole process.
“So for me, all those emotions (came) at once, all the memories and thoughts running through my head, up to getting a call from (Browns general manager) John Dorsey. Those were pretty special moments right there.”
Mayfield became the 84th Sooner to be drafted since 2000, and is head coach Lincoln Riley’s first NFL selection. Oklahoma is the lone program to produce two quarterbacks this millennium who were picked No. 1 overall, and the only program since the 1940s to produce two No. 1 QB picks in a 10-year period. It is also one of just six schools to have at least four former players go No. 1 overall.
Mayfield’s list of accomplishments and accolades reads like a novel. The 2017 unanimous first-team All-American and the program’s sixth Heisman Trophy winner was also a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and a two-time first-team All-American, and is the Big 12 career record-holder for yards per pass attempt (9.7), touchdowns responsible for (153) and consecutive games with at least one TD pass (40). He set the OU career record for completion percentage (.698), passing efficiency rating (189.4), TDs responsible for (138) and pass attempt streak with no interceptions (200), and ranks second in FBS history in passing efficiency rating (175.4), third in yards per attempt, fourth in TD passes (131) and fifth in total offense (15,690 yards).
The 6-1, 215-pounder also led OU to 34-6 overall and 25-2 Big 12 records the last three years, while guiding the Sooners to three Big 12 titles as well as the Orange Bowl (CFP), Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl (CFP). All that after joining the program as a walk-on following his unannounced arrival from Texas Tech, where he was also a walk-on.
“It’s an emotional night,” said Riley, who was also Mayfield’s position coach. “Baker’s been through a lot and this is a great night for him and for his family. You look at where he started and how he was overlooked a lot his life but continued to believe in himself, continued to fight. Having a front-row seat to his journey the last three years, it’s really unbelievable. He’s believed in himself the whole way, and that shows you how important that is.”
Asked about Mayfield’s prospects with the Browns, Riley issued heavy optimism.
“I think he’ll do well,” he said. “They showed they really wanted him. They believed in him and they invested in him. They could have had anyone in America. I think if the Browns are as invested in him as we were at Oklahoma, he’s going to return the favor by working his tail off. I think it’s going to be a great fit. He’s got the confidence and self-belief to go in there and do very well.”
Bob Stoops, Mayfield’s first OU head coach, couldn’t hide his happiness for Mayfield, and couldn’t help still marvel at the quarterback’s achievements.
“Incredibly exciting,” said Stoops. “This is what should have happened for him. He’s the best player out there. What he did for us — just go back. The last three years have been magical. What he did in my last two years with the two Big 12 championships, the leadership, the toughness and everything else, I don’t know that I’ve ever had anyone like him. He earned everything he got, and to finish his career the last two years by setting the NCAA pass efficiency record both seasons is just incredible. What an exceptional player and story. So happy for him.”
Added Stoops, “Selfishly, me being a guy from Youngstown, Ohio, and an hour from Cleveland, I can’t wait for him to bring the Browns back and be the guy they’ve needed.”
In 2017, Mayfield earned unanimous first-team All-America honors and in addition to the Heisman Trophy won the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and was named AP Player of the Year and Sporting News Player of the Year.
He set the single-season OU record with four Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week awards, and led the FBS in completion percentage (.705), points responsible for (296) and yards per pass attempt (11.5). Mayfield broke his own FBS single-season record for passing efficiency rating (198.9), and set another school single-season record with his 4,938 yards of total offense. He finished second in OU single-season annals in completion percentage and touchdown passes (43) while ranking third in passing yards (4,627).
His most prolific performance of the year came in a 62-52 win at Oklahoma State when he set program records with 598 passing yards (387 in first half also set an OU standard) and 589 yards of total offense while throwing for five touchdowns on 24-of-36 passing and rushing for another score.
“I’m excited,” said Mayfield about going to the Browns. “I said it at the (NFL) combine; I’d love to be the guy to help turn them around and I think if anybody’s going to do it it’s going to be me. It starts in the locker room, it starts leadership wise with your teammates; changing the culture, installing a belief with everybody else. They have all the tools and the pieces. Let’s just make it happen now.”
Mayfield also gave a shout-out to OU fans that included an apology.
“Love you guys, appreciate your support,” he said. “I’m sorry you now to have to wear orange, but we’re all going to go through it together because we’re a part of the ‘Dawg Pound’ now.”
Mayfield is scheduled to speak to reporters during a news conference Friday afternoon in Cleveland.