Oklahoma not playing a conference championship didn’t hurt its chances to make the college football playoff, but it’s clear it did affect quarterback Baker Mayfield and his chances at the Heisman Trophy Award.
Mayfield, who has been outstanding for the Sooners throughout this season, did not receive the invite to New York City this weekend for the award as announced Monday evening.
The three finalists are Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The common thread there? All three had remarkable performances in conference championship games Saturday night, while the Sooners were idle. There was nothing Mayfield could do except sit and wait and see how it all shook out.
“He's a football player,” said senior center Ty Darlington when talking about Mayfield’s block in Bedlam. “He's not a quarterback at all. He's a football player and you can put him at safety, you can put him at linebacker, you can put him at kicker, wherever you want to put him, he's going to find a way to make an impact on the game.
“That's where I hope that the Heisman trust and all the people who do that look at more than just the stats, more than just the quarterback, as a football player, he makes an impact on the game like no one else I've ever been around. He finds a way to make his presence felt.”
Mayfield’s Monday started off well as he was the winner of the Burlsworth Award, given to the best player in college football who started as a walk-on. Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk for the honor.
Mayfield said the award meant a lot to him, but it’s clear the Heisman invite would have meant a lot to his teammates.
Mayfield was the catalyst to OU’s turnaround this year. He threw for 35 touchdowns, rushed for seven more and completed 68 percent of his passes. You want Heisman moments? Look no further than his performances against Tennessee, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
He did everything he could, but it appears it just wasn’t enough.
“The guys on this team believe he's the best player in the nation,” Darlington said. “But also, I'm proud of the way, not just the way he's played and the way he's led this team, but the way he's dealt with the acclaim.
“Going from being a walk-on transfer, walk-on again, quarterback battle, so many different things. He had every opportunity to have a really big head right now and I think most people would. He's been the same guy, the same goofy little 12-year-old video-game nerd that he is. I'm proud of him for that.”
The OU program went all-in on #Baker4Heisman, doing an incredible job of highlighting why Mayfield deserved at least the trip if not the award.
OU, coincidentally enough, will have a chance against Watson and the No. 1-ranked Tigers in the Capital One Orange Bowl in the college football playoff Dec. 31.