NORMAN — Baker Mayfield was a kid magnet on Wednesday afternoon.
The former Oklahoma quarterback returned home to 477 campers during his Baker Mayfield Football ProCamp on the OU campus.
He shared fist bumps with football-loving kids wearing Mayfield-style bandannas. He celebrated with a young girl named Stella who emerged as the fastest sprinter in camp. He ran a pitch play with fellow Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims, who had legendary coach Barry Switzer as a lead blocker.
Mayfield — the emotional, enthusiastic face of OU football for three years — said it’s a reminder of when he was a child admiring his football heroes.
“Kids this age are looking up to people who are blessed enough to be in the position I am now,” Mayfield said. “I remember looking up to guys who were doing the same things. It’s important to be out here and be around them and let them have fun, work a little bit and just enjoy it.”
Mayfield’s immediate impact on the OU program was legendary. He also has made an impact with the Cleveland Browns.
The fan base is rabid in Norman. How does it relate to Cleveland?
“I love the fan base here, I always will, but Cleveland’s a different animal, it really is,” Mayfield said. “It’s a football town. I think the Thunder take a little bit from here, even though they have the Cavaliers and Indians in Cleveland. But it’s a football town, and it’s a lot of fun to play here.”
Mayfield is keeping close tabs on his alma mater and has valuable advice for the two quarterbacks who followed him — fellow No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) and graduate transfer Jalen Hurts (Alabama).
For Murray, his teammate in 2016 and 2017: “I talked with Kyler a couple times throughout the process and a couple updates through OTAs and now that he’s done with minicamp. It’s a different ballgame, but nothing he can’t handle, that’s for sure.”
For Hurts, who has positioned himself to be the third consecutive transfer quarterback to be OU’s starter: “I’d say it was the same thing I told Kyler — to be himself. He doesn’t need to try and do anything we did. He needs to do his game; that’s good enough. There’s a reason he’s here, there’s a reason he’s a national champion. Him being a leader, he needs to continue that first and foremost and just to be himself. Lincoln (Riley) will do a great job of adapting to whatever he’s best at. Throughout the process of the offseason he’ll learn the offense and we’ll see.”
Mayfield himself grew as an NFL quarterback in 2018. He finished second in the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting last season.
He also provided hope for a Browns franchise that is slobbering over the possibility of an NFL playoff appearance.
What part of his game needs improving?
“Get a little bit better at everything,” Mayfield said. “There are a few things I’m working a lot harder at. But just overall a couple percentages better at everything, improve and then winning, obviously, is the most important thing. Just building chemistry with our guys and getting that timing down and getting on the same page, because that’s one of the greatest things we did here at Oklahoma.
“People underestimate that. At Oklahoma you’re around the same coaches for a few years, and in the pros you get a bunch of guys from different backgrounds and have been around different coaching and some guys process things in different ways. I think getting on the same page is important.”
The favorite portion of the camp’s afternoon session was seeing Mayfield, Sims and Switzer interact. And then to see the NFL quarterback pitch the ball to a 63-year-old running back behind an 81-year-old lead blocker during a fun moment?
“It was very, very special. That surprised me, two legends around these parts and two great people,” Mayfield said. “For them to show up and take some time and have some fun with it. … I didn’t realize Barry could move still move like that, but he has it.”