CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - I’m not sure where the ‘Baker Mayfield’ chants started. Maybe at his high school stadium in Austin, Texas.
But I am sure where they’ve been perfected. Here, 1400 miles away, by the lake.
How did we get here? How did HE get here? We journeyed to Central Texas to find out.
I ask, because BEFORE there was a guy waking up “feeling dangerous”, there was a baby-faced kid trying to get on the field.
“He’s been a longshot most of his athletic life”, says Hank Carter, Mayfield’s high school coach.
Before there was an elusive gunslinging super-rookie, there was an undersized quarterback learning to make a play.
“He’s not fast at all”, says Griffin Gilbert, Mayfield’s high school teammate.
What we found, when we traveled to Mayfield’s alma mater, Lake Travis High School, was that he’s had to work harder, and overcome more...at every level.
Hank SOT...532..."The first time I met him he was the little guy playing along with the big guys", says Carter. “He wasn’t an A-team athlete, but he was the alpha male. I grew up in the country, so I describe it as a small rat terrier that’s bossing around the big bulls”, laughed Carter.
Even then, Baker had a way of getting the big bulls to buy in. It was evident the first game of his junior year, when the starting quarterback went down, and Baker came off the bench.
“He came in and ran for 100 yards, and threw for 300 yards”, Carter says.
Sound familiar? It does to those of us who watched Baker make his NFL debut, in relief, in Week 3 against the Jets.
But back to that 2011 high school season. That Cavalier team ran the table and won the title, but that’s not what defines Baker. It’s what he does OFF the field.
“Our band was getting ready to play in the state championship contest for bands”, Carter says. "The contest was on a Saturday...the football team was here working out...and Baker organized a rally, including chants...the same chants that we might do as we’re getting ready to run out of the tunnel.
“Baker got the football team to do that for the band. Some guys may have thought they were too cool to do that, but not Baker.”
Gilbert, who played on that 2011 championship team with Mayfield, agrees.
“He’s just always had that ability to draw people in”, Gilbert says. “That’s why he’s a good leader”.
And you know how it is with good friends. They have your back, but they’ll also keep you in check. I mean, Baker can’t possibly be good at EVERYTHING.
“He’s just not good at basketball, which is strange, for a pro athlete”, Gilbert said with a laugh.
Does he know this, I asked?
“Oh yeah”, Gilbert said. “We remind him of this quite a bit”.
Gilbert went on to play at TCU. A year later, Mayfield headed off to Texas Tech, and then Oklahoma, where the undersized kid from Lake Travis high school grew into the future Heisman winner, and #1 pick in the Draft.
“His talent level grew to a whole other stratosphere”, says Gilbert.
That it did, but even as the trophies piled up for Baker the player, Baker the person remained down to earth, returning to his hometown to share his success with thousands of friends, and fans.
“They’ll make a movie about him someday”, Carter says. “It’ll be a heckuva movie, and a book. I’m not sure who’ll play Baker. Maybe Will Ferrell.”
For now, though, the next chapter of Baker’s book will be scripted ON the field. A story that Mayfield’s been writing his entire life. Inspiring others. And overcoming the odds.
“He wasn’t very big and he wasn’t very fast”, says Carter.
He really wasn’t very fast?
“He’s elusive”, Gilbert says with a laugh, “but he’s not fast. I’ll beat him in a race right now, and I’ve had two back surgeries”.