Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson were talking last December after arriving in Manhattan as Heisman Trophy finalists. Jackson threw out a question, Louisville quarterback to Oklahoma quarterback, wanting to know if Mayfield had written a speech.
“No, you’re going to win it,” Mayfield told Jackson.
“And he looked at me like, ‘Are you serious?’ ” Mayfield said, recounting the story. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
Sure enough, Jackson became the youngest Heisman winner ever, at 19 years, 337 days. Mayfield came in third after finishing fourth in 2015.
They were back again in Manhattan on Friday as finalists, meeting the press with Stanford running back Bryce Love at the Marriott Marquis in anticipation of Saturday night’s Heisman announcement at the nearby PlayStation Theater. Mayfield hadn’t yet written a speech. But now he’s the favorite to win it.
“It would be an unbelievable honor,” Mayfield said. “Just to be here, for me, it’s a blessing.”
Mayfield has already collected three national player of the year awards and the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback. The 6-1 redshirt senior from Texas has thrown for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns with just five interceptions in leading the Sooners to a 12-1 record and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
He also gained attention for trying to plant the OU flag inside Ohio State’s logo at midfield after a win on Sept. 9 and for his vulgar gesture and profane retorts toward Kansas players in the third quarter after its captains refused to shake his hand before a win on Nov. 18. But Mayfield’s competitive streak defines him.
“The best ones always have an edge about them,” Mayfield said. “You look at the Tom Bradys, the Michael Jordans. You look how competitive they are and how bad they want to get better even though people consider them the greatest of all time. And so for me, that’s the same mindset.”
Jackson leads the nation in total offense after throwing for 3,489 yards and 25 touchdowns and running for 1,443 yards and 17 touchdowns for his 8-4 team. The 6-3 junior said the Heisman changed his life, including how fans refer to him around Louisville.
“They’re always saying, ‘the Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson,’ instead of just saying my name now,” said Jackson, his program’s first Heisman honoree. “I know they love it.”
Love owns 1,973 yards on the ground for his 9-4 team despite suffering an ankle injury in game seven that cost the 5-10 junior the next game and plagued him thereafter.
“There’s definitely some nagging things,” Love said, “but in my mind, there’s no way that I wasn’t going to go out and compete with my teammates and do the best that I could.”