The guy I wrote would be an NFL bust stands 5 feet away, and the right thing to do here is to own it to Baker Mayfield.
The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback, who was the best player in college football in 2017, is dressed in a tuxedo and chatting with four reporters at a conference room in downtown Fort Worth before accepting the Davey O’Brien award on Monday evening.
After introductions two questions are asked, I told Mayfield I am the guy who, on Dec. 2, after his Sooners crushed TCU (again) in the Big 12 title game, wrote that he will be an NFL draft bust.
He had seen it. I know because he “liked” the headline on Twitter.
“There are some things you just see. I don’t go out of my way to find it. A lot of my friends will send it because they know it motivates me. If I was paying too much attention to it I’d be focused on the wrong things,” he said.
(NOTE: If it’s negative, a pro jock will find the comment. They will read/see it. No matter their strength or size, the comments and observation will bother them. Because they are human.)
“Most of the people have not been in my shoes at all,” he said. “They haven’t been through this process. Nobody has ever done the two walk-on story that I had so only I can be in control of what I choose to do. It takes a lot. It takes a special person to make this transition to the NFL.”
Then I asked him if he is numb to such headlines and commentary from people. People like me.
“I wouldn’t say I’m numb to it, but I don’t harp on it. I see it and I’ll use that as motivation,” he said. “You’re going to make your money off writing a story like that because you’re going to get a reaction off of athletes, that’s just how it works. At the same time, I’m going to make more money off what I’m going to do in the future and I’m going to be happy doing that.”
There in the subtle dig: I’m going to be rich playing football, and you’re not. That will make me happy.
There is nothing more American than equating superiority with the size of a check, and then rubbing it in someone else’s face.
In the face of someone who trashed his NFL future, Baker was respectful. He was unfailingly polite. He was decent. He was honest.
We crave candor, so don’t kill Baker Mayfield for his.
Based on his size, and the horrible percentages of actually making it as a successful NFL quarterback, it’s hard to like his chances, but it’s hard not to like Baker Mayfield.
Hopefully, the attention and the media members who “make money” off athletes won’t crush the candor from his spirit.
Of the many things said and written about him, I asked him which is the most inaccurate.
“I think between the Manziel comparison that I’m going to get caught up in everything else. We’re two completely different people,” Mayfield said.
Who exactly wants to be compared to Johnny Manziel these days?
Both Baker and Johnny Manziel won the Heisman. Both are from Texas. Both were mostly overlooked coming out of high school. Both were outstanding freelance players. Both had an issue or two off the field. Both are on the short side.
And Baker Mayfield is not Johnny Manziel.
Having been not offered a scholarship out of high school, and having to walk on both at Texas Tech and at Oklahoma, Baker is smart enough to recognize the holes in the evaluation system. Smart people miss all the time.
The only people who know less than sports writers are high school draft analysts. Remember, when Mayfield was a high school senior he was the 79th-ranked quarterback in the nation. Kenny Hill was 22nd. Jared Goff was 23rd. Christian Hackenberg was first.
At least NFL draft analysts have some work on which to base their annual guess.
"Nobody really knows. You can do your evaluation," he said. "You can do these drills. You can do measurables. And somebody can look really good. But until you see what they’re made of when people are running after you and try to tackle you, try to fluster you when you’re going through your reads, nobody really knows. It’s different.
I compare evaluations to kind of preseason rankings. None of that really matters until you get out there and you’re playing and you see what somebody’s actually made of."
I’m calling that Baker will not be a great NFL quarterback because few reach that level. At 6-foot-1 (maybe), he's not tall for an NFL passer. And winning the Heisman Trophy is a curse for quarterbacks.
Baker sticking in the league for seven or nine years? That’s plausible.
Mark Sanchez, Andy Dalton, Colt McCoy, Luke McCown, Tyrod Taylor, Brock Osweiler, Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford are all veteran NFL quarterbacks of varying success. There are others, too.
They made it, but no one could say any of these men are top-tier NFL passers.
Mayfield does not have to be that to be successful.
Because if he can join that list of NFL quarterbacks, he will be rich by playing football. And that will not only make him happy, but better than me.
Good for him.
Now go get it.