Baker Mayfield stepped into the spotlight and shrugged it off in one fell swoop.
The Browns’ quarterback of the future understands the attention he’ll receive, considering the position he plays and where he was drafted. There will be expectations going forward and Mayfield, the former Oklahoma star and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, will be ready to embrace them when the time comes.
Until then, Mayfield says his main focus is earning the respect of his veteran teammates, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and doing whatever he can to help Cleveland ignite a long-awaited turnaround.
“You can’t talk about it and earn their respect. You’ve got to go to work,” Mayfield said Friday shortly before the first practice of a three-day minicamp. “You have to put your time in. You’ve got to earn the playbook. When you get your opportunity, you have to show that you’re there for a reason.”
While Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, will take center stage this weekend as the centerpiece of the team’s rookie class, he made clear he's ready to defer to Taylor, whom Cleveland acquired in a trade with Buffalo in March. “He’s the starter, and all I can do is help us out,” Mayfield said. “When you get a guy like that, it helps out the locker room in just the best way possible.”
The 23-year-old Mayfield said Taylor has already shown him how to be a professional. ‘He’s a grinder. He comes in early and he’s the last one to leave,” Mayfield said. “I can only aspire to be like that. It’s not going to be something that separates the locker room. We’re not going to be fighting over who’s the man in the locker room. I am a team-oriented guy, and we just want to win.”
Mayfield, a former two-time walk-on who ended his college career as Hue Jackson described as the “Pied Piper of Oklahoma football,” became the first quarterback taken by the Browns at No. 1 since 1999. In three years in Norman, he completed a record 70 percent of his passes for 12,292 yards, 119 touchdowns and just 21 interceptions.
Before that, Mayfield was a little-regarded recruit out of Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. With limited scholarship offers, he bet on himself and walked on at Texas Tech. After an injury and slide down the depth chart, he transferred to Oklahoma and sat out the 2014 season as part of NCAA rules.
That year, Mayfield said, taught him patience. He plans to approach 2018 in similar fashion.
“Human nature, yeah, I want to play – there’s no doubt about that," he said, "but in whatever way I can make the team better and whatever way that I can grow and learn from whatever’s happening, I need to do that."