FORT WORTH, Texas — Baker Mayfield returned to his home state earlier this week to accept the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Year Award during a ceremony at the Fort Worth Club, and SoonerSports.com sat down with him before the banquet to find out about his preparation for the NFL Combine, details about his Senior Bowl experience, which NFL teams are showing the most interest, his recollections of the Rose Bowl and his take on the 2018 Sooners, among other topics.
Question 1: For fans who are unaware, what have you been doing since the season ended?
Answer: "So after the Rose Bowl, I didn't go back to Norman or Austin. I stayed out in Los Angeles and got my training situation set up. I've been living north of L.A., kind of in the Valley close to where my training center, Proactive Sports Performance, is located. It's in Westlake Village. They've got another location in Orange County where Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown are training.
"I had asked some current NFL guys who've been through this process, like Dwight Freeney and Davis Webb, about how they decided to choose their (training) spot, and I got recommendations from some former players, too. There was one common place that everyone had good things to say about and that was Proactive. The guy who started it used to work in the NFL and he told me about the great staff they have. Then you throw in the nice area and beautiful weather and I was sold. They're low key with what they do. They're not flashy, it's not some guru thing where they try to reinvent the wheel. They just work really hard and that's what I've always been about. It's been a great fit."
2. Who are some other guys you've been working out with and what does your daily routine consist of?
"There's really not that many guys there who are training for the NFL Combine. There's like eight guys and a lot of them are small-school guys. The ones from the biggest schools are Derrius Guice, the running back from LSU, and Eric Beisel, the middle linebacker from Missouri. The other guys there kind of had paths similar to mine. Just worked hard, went through some challenges. So that group of guys is good to work with. We challenge each other, we're competitive. That's what I wanted. That pushes us to be our best.
"There's also a group of baseball guys who have been working there but are now at spring training or about to be. I'd go in early and hang out with the baseball guys. Christian Yelich, a Gold Glove outfielder who was recently traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, grew up in that area and has been training at the same place for the last 8-10 years. He's just a great guy. If you would have gone up to him randomly and talked to him you would never know he's making $50 million over seven years. He's just a good guy who works hard and pushes those baseball guys.
"As far as my daily routine, normally I start with Jimmy Clausen, who does the quarterback stuff there. I work with him two or three times a week, depending on how my arm's feeling and what exactly I want to get done that week. He helps me with the mental side of things and with my footwork. I do that for about an hour in the morning before our field workout at 8:30, which will be another hour. Then I have a little bit of time off before I get my lift in, which lasts a little over an hour. Then I've usually got some sort of recovery on the schedule: physical therapy, rehab, yoga. Lots of days I'd go get lunch with Christian. The afternoons have typically been dedicated to the business side of things. At first I would have meetings with potential agents to determine who I was going to sign with. Once I got settled in with my agents, a lot of my afternoons would consist of meetings about apparrel, sponsorships and endorsement deals. I haven't locked in anything specifically yet."
3. How was your Senior Bowl experience? Was there anything that took you by surprise?
"My Senior Bowl experience was great. I think I accomplished everything I wanted to in terms of addressing the character questions and getting out there and competing with guys. I think the most interesting thing for me was getting a little taste of what the combine interviews will be like. I didn't have time to meet with a ton of teams, but I met with five or six of them. And every team does it differently. That's what surprised me the most. Some guys sit in there and will grill you and ask you questions about everything except football to try to get you flustered. Then they'll finally get to football. Some guys are relaxed, will ask you football questions and pull up tape. Everybody has a different philosophy. With some teams, the GM will run the meeting. Other GMs sit there and let the coaches do it. It's interesting."
4. What's your focus as the NFL Combine nears?
"For me, I have enough tape to show the physical side of what I can do. I have three years worth. I'm obviously going to showcase my arm strength and what I believe in at the combine, but preparation for that has to do more with the mental side of things; getting on the board, impressing people with my knowledge of the game, that I'm able pick up certain systems and schemes. And then translate that from in the classroom to on the field. That's important for me, and so is addressing the type of guy I am. Getting in front of teams and letting them know that even though they may have seen one or two things that made the headlines, they're going to get a different animal when it comes to being a franchise guy."
Mayfield went 33-6 as a starter for the Sooners and led them to three Big 12 titles and two College Football Playoff appearances. He twice set FBS single-season records for passing efficiency (2016 and 2017).
5. What's going to be the biggest adjustment you think you'll have to make as you jump to the NFL?
"I've said cleaning up my footwork under center many times now, but the more I think about it, when you look at NFL teams, a lot of them don't even go under center. You look at (Tom) Brady, you look at (Aaron) Rogers, Drew Brees. They don't go under center. So as big of a transition that people want to make it out to be, it's not. It's more mental preparation throughout the week, it's knowledge of the game. Physically, yeah, I'll obviously train very, very hard. That's what I've always done. But in my eyes, for quarterbacks, it's a lot more about the mental side of things than anything else."
6. Are you able to mention the teams that have shown the most interest in you?
"I have meetings set up already, and that will be publicized eventually. I've got stuff set up for my visit to Cleveland. I've already met with the Jets, the Bills, the Saints. I had one scheduled with the Giants at the Senior Bowl, but since my mom was sick I didn't have as much time there as I had planned to have. So I've met with those teams and have more stuff set up with them."
7. It's been a month and a half since the Rose Bowl Game against Georgia. What comes to mind when you think about that game?
"That we should have won. And honestly, that we matched up better against Alabama in the championship game than they did. I've talked to I don't know how many people about that. I wish we would have finished it the way we should have; the way we were capable of. I can't go back and change it, but would obviously love to. Every time it gets brought up, whatever conversation I'm in and whoever I'm around, everybody says, 'Wow, we were rooting for you guys.' And I don't know why that is, but everybody says the same thing. They all expected us to win and wanted us to win.
"That game and my final game at Lake Travis (High School) were the two most painful losses of my life. There's so much tradition at both schools; winning is the standard. Losing at Lake Travis and Oklahoma in your final game when everything's right there in front of you was really tough. And feeling like you didn't play your best, that's the biggest regret. That's why it's the hardest pill to swallow."
8. The OU football team lost several key players from last season. How successful do you think it will be in 2018?
"They have all the talent in the world. People talk about the talent they lost, but it's not about that. OU will always have talent. It's about how you play together. Go back to this time last year and everybody questioned us because of the talent we lost. We lost some really good players and people didn't expect us to be anything great this past year. But it's how you play together, how you bring out the best in your teammates. I think when you've got the best coach in the country and he keeps making that staff stronger, and keeps making it about the right things and changing the work ethic around the program, the sky's the limit.
"If Kyler Murray wins the quarterback job, you're going to have the most talented guy, athletically, in the country playing quarterback. You're not going to find a better run/pass combo guy than Kyler. You've got the athletes. All the running backs are back and you have more talent coming in. You've got the receivers. You've got a lot of experienced offensive linemen in the program, which is important. The big thing will be leadership — how they play together and leadership. The way that Coach Riley coaches and the mentality that he instills, I think they're going to be really good. I've told people that within the next three years they'll win a national title. I have no doubt about that."
9. How much do you miss college?
"I miss the people. I loved the University of Oklahoma so much because of the people who make it as fun as it is. It doesn't get any better for a student-athlete in terms of how neat the experience is. I'll carry the relationships I made there for the rest of my life. It's different now. They say, 'When it's over, it's over,' and it really was.
"The thing I miss the most is being on a team; being part of one. Not that I don't feel like I'm part of the OU family for life, because I definitely do. But not being with my teammates right now and working with them in the offseason, it's different now. You'd wake up and have a workout group and you'd go through the grind together. Right now I'm doing just a lot of individual stuff. Yeah, I'm competing against guys who are training for the combine, and you want to push each other, but at the same time you're not all working toward the same goal as a team. You're not working toward a national championship. You're working toward building your resume and making sure that when you have your interviews you're ready to go. Being on a team is something I always cherished; having your brothers and family around you. That's what I miss the most."
10. OK, have to ask. You've been tagging a lot of your social media posts with the letters "MMO." What does that stand for?
"I can't officially announce it yet, but everybody will know soon. It's nothing like 'OVO' or 'Money Season' or anything like that. I haven't let Cali change me, so all the people questioning if I've gone nuts out there, no, no. I still have the same mindset. But you'll find out soon.
"What I can tell you is that it doesn't stand for 'Money Moves Only.' That's probably the most common guess I get from people. I haven't even told my parents or my brother yet. That's mainly just to get under their skin. Somebody's got to stir the pot in the Mayfield family. So I'm enjoying that."