"I don’t think I’m cocky. It’s not cocky. It’s just confident." That’s Oklahoma Sooners star quarterback Baker Mayfield addressing reporters at the 2018 NFL Combine. After winning the Heisman Trophy and completing 70.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,627 yards, and logging 43 touchdowns in his record-breaking senior season, you can’t knock the self-confidence that has positioned him as one of the top quarterbacks entering the 2018 NFL Draft.
The brash Texas native and former walk-on doesn’t have to answer any questions about his play on the field, but he does have a lot to answer for regarding what he does off the gridiron. From his highly publicized arrest to his clashes with coaches, press, and players, this fiery competitor’s brand of red flags and swagger doesn’t sit too well with many who cross his path.
Let’s take a deep dive into the shady side of potential NFL star Baker Mayfield.
TCU’s Gary Patterson blasted him in the media
Mayfield received zero scholarship offers coming out of high school, so when asked at the 2015 Orange Bowl which college disappointed him the most during the recruitment process, Mayfield wasted no time dropping names.
According to Tulsa World, Mayfield said Texas Christian University "hung me out to dry" and effectively hurt his chances with other programs. "They told me they were going to offer me a scholarship and kind of drug it out … I truly believed that they were going to offer me because they told me that." In a follow-up question, reporters inquired about the status of his relationship with TCU head coach Gary Patterson. Mayfield replied, "He doesn’t like me and I have no comment about that."
Patterson clapped back during an interview with ESPN’s Bonnie Bernstein in December 2015. "I like Baker Mayfield. I think he’s a good kid and that’s what disappoints me," the coach said (via the Star-Telegram). "If Baker Mayfield wants to blame TCU for 128 BCS schools not offering him a scholarship, that’s fine. But ask Kliff Kingsbury why he didn’t offer him a scholarship at Texas Tech. Ask about Baker’s dad [James]. He’s an arrogant guy who thinks he knows everything. If people knew the whole story, they might not have a great opinion of Baker or his father."
Something tells us these two won’t be sitting down for a beer anytime soon.
Booze, food, and a messy viral arrest
In the early morning hours of Feb. 25, 2017, Baker Mayfield was arrested in Arkansas for "public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing" after a scuffle near a row of food trucks, reported ESPN. The incident reportedly began around 2:30 a.m. when someone flagged down a police officer "to take an assault and battery report." Said officer supposedly instructed the quarterback to stay put to give a formal statement, but Mayfield began "yelling profanities and causing a scene." That’s when things took a turn.
According to ESPN, the police report stated that "Mayfield had slurred speech, had difficulty walking down stairs and was covered in food on the front of his clothing … when the officer asked Mayfield to come over, he began to walk away. When the officer told him to stop, Mayfield sprinted away, which forced the officer to chase him and tackle him to the ground."
Mayfield later took to Twitter to apologize for the "biggest mistake" of his life. "I wish I could individually apologize to every single person that I have affected," he said. "Just know that I am extremely sorry. I will earn your respect back and prove that I can handle myself in every situation, on and off the field."
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley also issued a statement (via NFL.com): "Baker has expressed regret for his actions and backed up his apology by being a model leader in our program. He has learned from his mistake and will continue to grow from it. The coaching staff and team has every confidence in him going forward."
Mayfield was ordered by the University of Oklahoma to complete an "alcohol education program and perform 35 hours of community service," according to NFL.com.
He keeps a list
If you’re a Baker Mayfield hater, the outspoken quarterback more than likely knows who you are. If you’ve ever written a critical article, spewed a hot take on television, or questioned his character, this guy will remember it … possibly forever. Calling it his "secret way of keeping the fire burning," Mayfield freely admits to keeping a running tally of everyone who has ever doubted him.
According to Sports Illustrated, when Mayfield comes across "negative stuff" about him or his team, he saves the tidbits to his phone. "You keep scrolling down the list of things," he said, "and it goes back far. It sums up my journey. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come."
That seems like a lot of work and a drain on his phone battery, but if scrolling through a list of haters can be a motivator, then more power to him.
Planting the flag
After defeating the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes by a score of 31-16 in September 2017, Baker Mayfield took a victory lap with the team flag and planted it squarely in the middle of Ohio Stadium. His teammates loved it! When the quarterback won the Heisman Trophy four months later, fans even petitioned to have Mayfield forever memorialized with a "flag-planting statue." Needless to say, the magic of that moment was not shared by opposing players and fans.
Mayfield later apologized for what many interpreted as a tremendous display of poor sportsmanship. "I didn’t mean for it to be disrespectful to any Ohio State people at all, especially the team or the players, because they’re a great team and a great program," he said during a press conference (via ESPN). "…I got caught up in an emotional win. Yeah, it should’ve been something I did in the locker room. So I apologize for doing it in the middle of the field."
Does anybody want to take a guess what happened two months later? Let’s find out.
The infamous crotch grab
"Baker Mayfield didn’t feel like taking the high road today," tweeted Sports Illustrated in November 2017. What was the video accompanying that tweet?
Mayfield grabbing his crotch and screaming "F**k you" to the Kansas Jayhawks’ sideline after throwing a touchdown pass to put the Sooners up 28-3 in the third quarter. According to Sports Illustrated, the Jayhawks caught the ire of Mayfield when they "refused to shake hands at the coin toss" and were "flagged for a late hit on Mayfield in the second quarter." Constantly heckled throughout the game, Mayfield reportedly told Kansas fans, "You have one win, stick to basketball." Ouch.
The game’s announcer was quick to point out what many viewers at home were thinking: "NFL GMs are going to see that and they’re going to mark it down saying that’s not what we want in the National Football League."
Once again, Mayfield found himself issuing an apology for questionable behavior. "I got caught up in a competitive game, a chippy game, but what I did was unacceptable," he told reporters in a press conference (via ESPN). "I apologize. It’s disrespectful. It’s not the example I want to set. It’s not the legacy I want to leave at OU. I truly do apologize. Thinking about the kids that are watching this now, it’s not something I want to do to the parents out there. I’m sorry."
Mayfield eats a big slice of humble pie
The day he was set to lead his team against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2018 Rose Bowl for a chance to compete for a national championship, Baker Mayfield quickly reminded everyone about that handy dandy list of haters stored in his phone.
In fact, the star quarterback had an explicit message for ESPN’s Lee Corso, who had called the Oklahoma Sooners "pretenders" in preseason predictions. Mayfield walked into the stadium carrying a sign that said just that, and the trolling didn’t stop there. While on the field before the game, Mayfield upset some Georgia players by running routes in "the middle of their warm-up."
Maybe Mayfield should have focused a little more on the present instead of the past. Georgia defeated the Sooners 54-48 in a dramatic, double-overtime shootout, and linebacker Davin Bellamy made sure Mayfield knew about it by yelling "humble yourself" at the dejected quarterback as he walked through a sea of cameras.
"All I’m saying is humble yourself," Bellamy repeated in a post-game interview (via ESPN). "All the flamboyancy … Just humble yourself, man, just humble yourself. You’re not built like that."
Mayfield’s response: "They can say what they want, they won the game."
He can’t shake the ‘Johnny Manziel’ label
Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel might be the poster boy for the modern-era NFL bust. Known as a heavy partier in college who had his fair share of red flags off the field, Manziel flamed out after just two seasons in the league. With similar dynamic play-making abilities and a reputation that precedes him, Mayfield has found himself fighting off comparisons to the fallen Texas A&M hero.
"We’re two completely different people," Mayfield told ESPN. "I’ve always been a team-oriented guy. Not saying that Johnny wasn’t, but I’ve quickly earned the respect of my teammates because of how I worked." Mayfield firmly rejected any parallel to Manziel by adding the two are "just wired differently."
Some might call the comparison lazy, but it has stuck to Mayfield like chewing gum on the sole of his cleats. "Everyone wants to portray (me) as a bad boy, the Johnny Manziel stuff," Mayfield lamented (via NFL.com). "I love the game of football, there’s no doubt about that. I’m an emotional player. I’ll do anything it takes to win. I love being around my teammates, leading and having responsibilities. It is what it is. If I paid too much attention to it, I’d be focusing on the wrong things."
The infamous ‘family matter’
The Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. is the place where the nation’s top college senior prospects gather to show off their skills in front of NFL coaches and executives. Everyone is expected to show up on time, but Baker Mayfield isn’t everyone.
When ESPN‘s Chris Mortensen tweeted that a "family matter" would delay Mayfield’s arrival at the event, the takes began. Cleveland Browns podcaster Damon Kecman tweeted that Mayfield’s tardiness "took a roster spot away from someone who probably needed it more than him," chiding the quarterback for making it "all about him."
As it turns out, Mayfield was late because his mother was in the hospital, and he made sure Kecman was aware of that fact. "Showing up late? What would you do if your mom had gone to the hospital? Get outta here," the QB fired back on Twitter. "Family before myself always."
In a plot twist nobody saw coming, Mayfield received an apology for once. "I’m sorry that I assumed the reasons of why Baker Mayfield was late to the Senior Bowl," Kecman’s Twitter mea culpa read. "Nor I, or anyone, knew the reasons for his absence but I wanted to publicly apologize because I was not trying to insinuate that his family matter wasn’t serious."
Could he be any cockier?
The NFL Scouting Combine is an annual event that allows teams to get an upfront look at the prospects who want to make a living on Sunday afternoons. Not only do NFL brass see how these players match up physically and athletically by clocking their 40-yard dash times and how many reps they can bench press, but they also measure the players’ knowledge of the game and mental attitude with interviews and media press conferences.
When Baker Mayfield stepped up to the podium, he brought his ego as well. "I think if anybody’s going to turn that franchise around it would be me," he said (via Cleveland.com) when asked why they lowly Cleveland Browns, who compiled a 1-31 record in the two seasons prior, should select him with their No. 1 overall pick. "I think they just need one guy, a quarterback to make that difference."
As for the possibility of being drafted by the New York Giants and learning from two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning, it seems Mayfield believes he’s already won the starting spot from the seasoned pro. "First things first, whatever team I go to I’m not going to settle for a backup job. I’ve never been like that. I never will," he said (via USA Today). "I’m going to push that person in front of me. When it comes down to it, the best man’s going to win and I know that."
He doesn’t care what you think
Love him or hate him, Baker Mayfield isn’t particularly interested in your opinion of him, even if you’re an NFL team and his attitude and questionable behavior rubs you the wrong way.
"I’m gonna be who I am. I don’t think I’m over-the-top cocky, I’m just proud of where I came from," he told NFL Network’s Dan Hellie. "I’m proud of the fact that I had to earn it, so if that comes across as cocky to some people, it is what it is. All I need is one team out of 32 to take a chance. I’m not trying to please everybody. I’m just trying to play for one team and do it the right way."
If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, NFL teams will have a difficult decision to make come draft night. Is his talent worth the headache? NFL fans have seen this story play out many times, but here’s to hoping Mayfield can turn it around and enjoy a productive career.