In any team sport, it is encouraged to have a few players with unique leadership and competitive spirit. This is especially helpful to have at the quarterback position in the game of football. These intangible qualities allow the other players to have a guide, someone they can follow and rally behind.
For Oklahoma Sooners football, superstar senior quarterback Baker Mayfield, former heisman finalist, is the team’s leader. The former Texas Tech walk on originally had no offers to play Division I football. After one successful season at Texas Tech, they still felt there was more to be desired under center. So Mayfield moved on and transferred in conference to Oklahoma University. At OU Mayfield wears his heart on his sleeve, having a big chip on his shoulder with all of the doubt that has come his way as a football player.
Mayfield has effectively silenced all of the haters during his time at Oklahoma. Last season as a junior he had 46 total touchdowns, including six rushing, and threw for 3,965 yards. These impressive stats coupled with leading the Sooners to an 11-2 season, earned him a spot in New York as a heisman finalist.
Since then, Mayfield has struggled to keep his head on straight with a bigger spotlight and far more notoriety. Over the summer he was arrested at the University of Arkansas for public intoxication and trying to flee from the police once they approached him. This appeared to be just a blip, however, after his actions this past Saturday it’s clear it was a sign of things to come.
Before Mayfield and Oklahoma took on the abysmal 1-9 Kansas Jayhawks, the opening coin toss had some fireworks. Mayfield offered to shake the Jayhawk captains hands, and the Kansas players all put their head down and ignored Mayfield. Why a team would want to tick off and motivate Mayfield any more than usual is beyond me, but ultimately the unsportsmanlike behavior by the Kansas players would be overshadowed by a foolish response by Mayfield.
In the third quarter, after a Oklahoma touchdown on their way to an expected blowout victory, Mayfield looked directly at the Kansas bench while grabbing his crotch, and shouting vulgar statements at the players. So yes every college football team would love to have their leader possess a rare competitive fire and passion. However, in Mayfield’s case his emotion got the best of him.
Oklahoma first year head coach Lincoln Riley, the youngest coach in the FBS at age 34, punished Mayfield by stripping him of his captaincy and starting the game against West Virginia this Saturday on the bench. As the clearcut heisman frontrunner, this hurts Mayfield significantly, as the heisman trophy is an extremely prestigious award in which one of the criteria is exuding integrity both on and off the field. These last few incidents suggests Mayfield is missing that criteria.
Luckily for Oklahoma, Mayfield is a tough customer who has proven to bounce back from less than ideal situations before. It is now on him to respond to this latest controversy, his play on the field and incredible road to getting to that point speaks for itself. However, his NFL future and his legacy from a character and integrity perspective at Oklahoma hang in the balance.