NORMAN — Brent Venables wasn’t around Norman when Baker Mayfield arrived in January 2015, showing up at a team event after transferring from Texas Tech.
But Venables is more than familiar with Mayfield’s journey from two-time walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick.
“The guy just kind of shows up, it’s this guy Mayfield from Tech. They’re like, ‘Is Mayfield somewhere in here?’ If you knocked him down in Walmart, you wouldn’t know who he is,” Venables said. “He just looked like a JAG — just a guy. And he’s one of the best players to play the game.”
At halftime of Saturday’s OU Spring Game, Mayfield will join Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White and Sam Bradford as former Sooners honored with a statue in Heisman Park.
Mayfield will be on hand for the ceremony, and is expected to address the crowd during the dedication ceremony, which will be held on the field, with the statue unveiled on the video board.
While Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman winner, didn’t play alongside anyone currently on OU’s roster and only two assistant coaches remain from the coaching staff, Mayfield’s legacy still looms large in Norman.
Here’s what several Sooners, past and present, had to say about Mayfield:
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Bob Stoops on Baker Mayfield
“Baker does everything 110%. He’s all in. He was running the scout team and he was destroying the defense. You know, just with his plays and energizing the defense just with his infectious attitude and personality and running around, slapping the coaches on the rear end. Again, as he’s a scout team player the year that he wasn’t able to play. Maybe the best thing anybody wants a player to be called is the favorite guy in the locker room, and he was a great, great teammate to everybody.”
— Bob Stoops, OU football head coach from 1999-2016
Brent Venables on Baker Mayfield
“If you have a statue at Oklahoma, you’re a dude. It’s pretty cool. I love how I have competed. To me, my mindset as somebody going against him was that you’ve got to cut the head off of that snake. Because that cat right there, you can’t go, ‘Oh, I need to take away these other guys. I’ve got to take away (Sterling) Shepard or the backs.’ No, Mayfield is the guy. To me, I have fueled the entire entire program every single week on both sides of the ball. He had that type of charisma, toughness, and leadership to him. What a great one. That’s going to be an honor to be a fly on the wall for that.”
— Venables, who was Clemson’s defensive coordinator in 2015 when the Sooners played the Tigers in the Orange Bowl
Bill Bedenbaugh on Baker Mayfield
“LoveBaker. He’s the ultimate competitor, you know what I mean? That’s what you want to be around. Great, great leader. Just made everybody around him better. And he’s a great, great person. Excited to be apart of it. … Excited to be a small part of those seasons. It’s going to be a special time, obviously, for him and his family, but really for everyone that’s been involved with it.
— Bill Bedenbaugh, Sooners offensive line coach since 2013
Dillon Gabriel on Baker Mayfield
“I’m going to be excited to meet him. Obviously I’ve watched him from afar, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he’s done for Oklahoma. He’s done a bunch. He won a bunch of games. But most importantly, just the passion he has for the game and Oklahoma. Man, it’s real. … It’s the way he plays with passion, how his energy is infectious. Every time he scored, you’ll see him running down the field and enjoying every single second of it. I just respect that way he plays the game and the love he has for it.”
— Dillon Gabriel, current Sooners’ quarterback
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Brian Darby on Baker Mayfield
“It was exciting watching Baker. I’ve always been an Oklahoma fan, so when I got my offer during my junior year, I automatically knew I wanted to come here and just build off what Baker and all of the other greats have built here. It’s been really good. I enjoyed watching him and CeeDee (Lamb). We just want to build off them and improve what they did and get a national championship here.”
— Brian Darby, Sooners wide receiver
Brayden Willis on Baker Mayfield
“I was being recruited when Baker was playing. That’s just the Sooner legend, man. When you talk about some of the greats that’s come through here, you gotta mention Baker. I think it’s so special that he’s getting his statue from him and I think it’s so special that we’re getting to honor him while I’m still here, with the statue. I’m just so excited to see it.”
— Brayden Willis, Sooners tight end
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Jay Valai on Baker Mayfield
“To me, it was probably one of the most explosive offenses that I’ve seen. It was Baker, but it was Baker plus Hollywood (Brown) and Mark Andrews and CeeDee. The entire entire team was elite, to say the least. … Baker’s leadership is what really drove them. We knew if we could slow down Baker, with his tempo and with where his mindset was, we knew eventually we could get them. It was a tough game. They put up a lot of yards and Baker was Baker. He was elite.”
— Jay Valai, Sooners’ cornerbacks coach, who was a defensive quality control coach at Georgia in 2017 when Mayfield and the Sooners faced the Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl
Shane Whitter on Baker Mayfield
“I think the energy has shifted, especially seeing how big the spring game is going to be because of that. With the statue being shown too, we all think it’s going to be a great game.”
— Shane Whitter, OU linebacker