Monday, November 20, 2017

The Baker Mayfield Effect

By Robert Campbell

I'm a huge proponent of the "it" factor. You know, those indescribable traits in a person that somehow always provokes success in whatever challenge they choose to endure, while unconsciously gravitating others toward them? That patent feeling of invincibility even in times when confidence would otherwise seem hopeless? That subtle transformation from the desire to win into the need to win and the I'm going to do everything in my power to get you there attitude?

I freakin' love those guys.

I love the "it" factor's rarity. I love its profound nature. Mostly, I love its inexplicableness whose presence can truly only be defined by the phrase "when you see it, you know it." And that really should be the sole definition of "it." But, of course, there's always that smart-ass columnist who forgoes the former advice and attempts to verbally portray the inexpressible using words he just recently discovered with the synonym feature on Microsoft Word.

I freakin' hate those guys.

Wait, I mean, well, umm ... here goes nothing.

Baker Mayfield has it. The 6'1" Oklahoma quarterback and arguable Heisman front-runner with a flair for the dramatic was basically undesired coming out of high school in Austin, Texas. A three-star recruit devoid of scholarship offers from major schools, Mayfield opted to walk onto Texas Tech, where he became the first true freshman walk-on quarterback to start a season opener for a Power 5 school. And he didn't disappoint. He started the season 5-0, and despite getting injured in a week 5 win at Kansas, Mayfield was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013.

When Texas Tech didn't offer him a scholarship after the 2013 season, Mayfield chose to transfer and enroll at the University of Oklahoma, where he again walked on. Despite losing a season of eligibility due to Big 12 transfer policies, Mayfield wasn't phased, and in 2015, beat out Trevor Knight for the starting job. Perhaps Bob Stoops and his staff were the first to realize how special Mayfield could be when they chose the transfer walk-on following a year absence over the 2014 Sugar Bowl MVP who led Oklahoma to an upset of two-time reigning national champion Alabama.

Stoops turned out to be right; Mayfield took the job and ran with it. Over the course of three seasons, Mayfield has 114 touchdowns compared to 29 picks, and has cemented himself at the center of the Heisman discussion. More importantly, Mayfield has led Oklahoma to a No. 3 national ranking with the ability to control their own destiny heading into what could be their second College Football Playoff appearance in three years.

Despite his recent surge on many draft boards, Mayfield is still often being overlooked in favor of guys like Sam Darnold, who is in the midst of a disappointing season; Josh Rosen, on an irrelevant UCLA team; Lamar Jackson, a quarterback who is likely more suited for the college game; Josh Allen, who hasn't seen nearly the level of competition Mayfield has; and Mason Rudolph, who was just out-dueled by Mayfield a few weeks back. In that game against Oklahoma State, Mayfield put up 5 touchdowns and led his team to 62 points in perhaps the most important game of his career.

Big time players make big time plays in big time games. Yeah, I want Mayfield on my side.

Admittedly, I'm no scout, but the measurements and analytics aspect surrounding prospects should only go so far, and shouldn't inescapably supersede the eye-test or a player's intangibles. Furthermore, I understand that, more so in football than in any other sport, it takes a village, and one man isn't solely responsible for a team's successes or failures. But, at quarterback, I want a proven winner. Did you guys see what DeShaun Watson did this year before getting hurt?

Even Mayfield's name screams "it" while simultaneously encouraging cooking insinuations in too many newspaper headlines. A guy named Baker Mayfield leads you to victory on statement Saturday. A guy named Bob Mayfield leads you to aisle seven on casual Friday. Let's be honest, people, if Kobe Bryant were Kevin Bryant, he would have been Joe Bryant at best.

Mayfield is passionate, fearless, and brings out the best in his teammates. And while his mouth has gotten him into trouble in the past, his perceived cockiness is mostly just self-assurance mixed with a dash of uncontrollable passion. He should work on toning it down a bit at times, but his affinity for talking smack isn't necessarily a bad thing. Think Phillip Rivers, not Johnny Manziel.

Perhaps Aubrey Graham said it best when he notoriously rapped, "If you ain't got it, you ain't got it the theory is brilliant." Well, Mayfield has got it, and it may just lead him and his Sooners to a national championship this season.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017