University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s outstanding player Saturday night, capping off a decorated awards season ahead of a potential national championship run.
Mayfield — who had already been honored with the Davey O’Brien Award, the Maxwell Award, and the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year — became the first senior to win the Heisman since Ohio State’s Troy Smith in 2006, the first Oklahoma player to win the award since Sam Bradford in 2008, and the first Heisman winner to begin his career as a walk-on since athletic scholarships started in the 1950s.
“It’s been a tough journey,” Mayfield said during his acceptance speech. He choked back tears thanking his parents and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.
Mayfield also thanked former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who also was at the Best Buy Theater in midtown Manhattan, for welcoming a “chubby, unathletic kid into the program with open arms.”
Mayfield received 732 first-place votes and 2,398 points. Stanford running back Bryce Love had 75 first-place votes and 1,300 points and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, last year’s Heisman winner, received 47 and 793. Mayfield received 86 percent of the total points available, the third-highest percentage in Heisman history. Jackson’s third-place finish was the best by a returning winner since Tim Tebow of Florida in 2008. Jackson was trying to become just the second player to win the Heisman Trophy twice.
The Heisman was a measure of vindication for Mayfield, whose dazzling on-field statistics (4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns this season) had stood alongside off-field controversy. He planted a crimson OU flag in the middle of the field at Ohio Stadium after Oklahoma beat Ohio State in September. He told Baylor’s players during warmups they “forgot who daddy is” and that he was going to have to spank them. Before playing Texas Tech — the school he left before walking on at Oklahoma — he wore a shirt with ‘TRAITOR’ across the front, then beat the Red Raiders again.
But it was his behavior during a Nov. 18 game against Kansas that brought down the wrath of Riley. After the Jayhawks captains refused to shake hands with Mayfield prior to the coin toss, Mayfield got his revenge by tossing three touchdowns in a 41-3 win. He was also caught by TV cameras grabbing his crotch and swearing at the Kansas sideline. As punishment, he was stripped of his captaincy for his final home game against West Virginia and did not start.
But in the end, Mayfield’s play was too stellar to ignore. For his career, Mayfield is eighth in FBS history in yards passing (14,320) and sixth in touchdown passes (129). He is likely to leave college with the two best single-season passer ratings in major college football.
Pretty good for a scrawny kid who grew up in Austin, Texas, rooting for Oklahoma, but did not receive a scholarship offer out of high school from either the hometown Longhorns or his beloved Sooners.
At Lake Travis High School, Mayfield won a state championship at a school that regularly pumps out Division I quarterbacks. Mayfield was undersized at 6-1 and received just one offer from a Power Five program — Washington State.
Instead, he walked-on at Texas Tech and started eight games as a freshman in 2013. With a glut of quarterbacks in Lubbock, Mayfield left and had only one school in mind.
Oklahoma had Trevor Knight, coming off a Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama and with three more seasons left of eligibility, but that did not dissuade Mayfield.
His departure from Texas Tech was contentious. At first, he lost a year of eligibility, despite not being on scholarship. Texas Tech could have given permission to waive the lost year, but did not.
Mayfield eventually got that year of eligibility back when the Big 12 tweaked its rules, but he never did let it go.
Now, all that’s in the past. Next up: a date with No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl playoff semifinal on New Year’s Day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.