NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Baker Mayfield has overcome adversity many times and expects to do it again.
After all, perhaps more than any other quality, the former University of Oklahoma quarterback has made his mark with resilience.
Whenever Mayfield felt slighted during his college days, the chip on his shoulder grew and he improved, making him one of the most beloved Sooners in recent years. On his unique path, he went from walking on at Texas Tech and Oklahoma to winning the 2017 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and becoming and No. 1 overall draft pick. His defiant, outspoken approach along the way drew praise and criticism, with both feeding him fuel.
Oklahoma unveiled a statue of his likeness during halftime of the school’s Spring Game on Saturday — an honor the school bestows upon its Heisman winners. The event was highly anticipated — the seats inside the stadium were nearly full, and lines stretched outside the stadium well after kickoff. Fans cheered loudly as Mayfield addressed them inside the stadium, and as the statue was unveiled across the street at the school's Heisman Park.
Even with all he's accomplished, Mayfield is back to facing uncertainty he looks to maintain his NFL career. He recently said he felt “disrespected 100%” by the Cleveland Browns and said they told him they expected him to return as their starter next season before signing Deshaun Watson to a record-setting $230 million contract.
He remains with the Browns as they try to work out a trade, but he believes his four-year stint with Cleveland will be over soon. For now, he'll focus on improving and healing the labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder he tore in Week 2 last season.
“I haven’t been in this specific situation before, but it’s familiar territory when it comes to mindset and getting back to the basics and realizing what I need to do. And right now, I can control getting healthy, working and giving everything I have to wherever my next home is.”
Mayfield had success in Cleveland. He reached his peak two seasons ago, when the Browns won a wild card game at Pittsburgh for the franchise’s first playoff win in a quarter century. Cleveland took Kansas City to the limit in the divisional playoffs, fueling hopes that a Super Bowl trip with Mayfield might be in the future. Instead, he struggled with the injury last season, and the Browns finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs.
“I think obviously, there’s a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “That’s just life. Everybody at the next level, throughout their careers, they hit a low point. And it’s not about that low point, it’s how you handle it. I’ve said that, it’s never the actual adversity or the challenge, it’s what you do with it and how you set your mind to it.”
He is owed $18.8 million next season — a price tag that might complicate possible deals heading into the draft.
On Saturday, he mostly escaped from worrying about those things.
“In the process of where I am right now, of not knowing the next landing spot — to be able to come back just potentially a week prior to wherever I'm going to find out — it's pretty cool to come back to where this all started," he said. "And it's a good reset being around family, friends, loved ones, to just have that home base that you know, that you always have somewhere to go back to that you can lean on.”
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