NEW YORK — Baker Mayfield needed two tries as a walk-on quarterback to find a home and a third try to win college football’s most-coveted individual honor.
So, once he finally walked on stage at Playstation Theater in snowy Times Square on Saturday, the whip-hitting, flag-planting, ultra-competitive Mayfield read an emotional acceptance speech, which he admittedly prepared last minute as he dressed for the ceremony where he’d become the 83rd winner of the Heisman Trophy.
“Everybody asked me if I had something prepared,” said Mayfield, who received 732 first-place votes and 86 percent of total possible points. “I didn’t write anything down or really put it together until today. I wanted to go through the whole process. … To me, I’ve always been a person to show my emotions to people and be honest. And that speech I gave shows that.”
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Stanford RB Bryce Love
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
2016 Heisman Trophy winner and 2017 finalist Lamar Jackson advised Mayfield not to cry. But the kid from Austin, Texas, couldn’t hold back tears as he expressed gratitude for his team, former coach Bob Stoops, current coach Lincoln Riley and his parents, Gina and James Mayfield, for their contributions to his journey in becoming Oklahoma’s sixth Heisman winner.
“When you talk about people who have impacted my life in such a unique way,” Mayfield said, “and giving me an opportunity and changed me and shaped me into a man, it’s something I could care less what you say.
“I’ll shed a tear for those people. I’d do anything for them.”
Mayfield wouldn’t have been prepared to speak if he had won the Heisman a year before. In 2016, the then-junior quarterback knew Jackson would win. The opportunity to go to New York was enough, however, for the former walk-on freshman, who lamented his last two months at Texas Tech before showing up in Norman in January 2014.
The unhappy thoughts, which brewed inside Mayfield’s mind after an injury benched him as the Red Raiders’ starter, quickly simmered as he put on a Sooners practice jersey for the first time in 2014.
As he reflected on his OU career before Saturday’s ceremony, the loud-mouthed quarterback was lost for words before he explained how transferring to Oklahoma impacted his life.
“OU has been the biggest difference-maker for me,” Mayfield said. “You talk about OU, you talk about the people who changed my life, the mentors I’ve been around, the relationships I’ve built. Those are (going to) be for a lifetime for me. I say it all the time, it’s been a dream come true.
“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Mayfield has mentioned multiple times, however, he’s not done. He’ll be in Pasadena, California, battling No. 3-ranked Georgia for a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in less than a month, and the Heisman Trophy is not the trophy he returned to OU for.
The Heisman has been a topic of discussion between Mayfield and one of his closest friends, Oklahoma fullback Jaxon Uhles, since 2015. Uhles would joke with his roommate, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2015 and third in 2016, after Mayfield had a good game about where’d they put his Heisman Trophy.
“When he has a good game or something, I’ll ask what we need to move off the mantle to make some room and he gets a kick out of it,” Uhles said. “This year I haven’t joked with him too much.”
Uhles can finally prepare the mantle for the bronze trophy Mayfield will bring back to Norman as the first walk-on athlete to win the award since athletic scholarships were created in the 1950s.
“To the kids out there, don’t give up,” Mayfield said as he closed his acceptance speech.
“Don’t ever give up.”