How Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray pushed each other to greatness as Oklahoma teammates


Throughout their two years collectively at Oklahoma, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray by no means stopped competing.

Not a lot for the beginning job. Mayfield had already locked that up, having quarterbacked the Sooners to the Faculty Soccer Playoff through the 2015 season, weeks earlier than Murray arrived in Norman, Oklahoma, after transferring from Texas A&M.

However that did not cease them from discovering different methods to compete, even within the smallest of the way.

“They’re on the market in a warm-up drill, seeing who might throw one of the best spiral,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley recalled. “It was simply continually about that.”

Was it ever, in response to Austin Kendall, Tanner Schafer, Reece Clark and Connor McGinnis — the 4 different Oklahoma quarterbacks who shared a gathering room with Mayfield and Murray throughout these 2016 and 2017 seasons.

“We all the time turned each single drill into some form of competitors — simply because they wished to beat one another, which was clearly fairly enjoyable,” McGinnis mentioned. “However oh my gosh, it was nonstop.”

This Sunday, the 2 former teammates will likely be out to beat one another as soon as once more, as Murray and the Cardinals journey to face Mayfield’s Browns in Cleveland (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). Of their first NFL assembly two seasons in the past, Murray acquired one of the best of Mayfield. Now, Mayfield will look to return the favor by handing the undefeated Cardinals their first loss.

“Clearly he was the man, however I gave him s— on a regular basis,” Murray mentioned. “It was aggressive, however on the identical time, we had one of the best quarterback room within the nation — we knew it.

“The boldness, the swagger about that room was unmatched. … and it was enjoyable.”

Unmatched, certainly. Mayfield and Murray grew to become the primary quarterbacks from the identical faculty to not solely win the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back seasons however go No. 1 total in consecutive NFL drafts.

“Actually particular,” mentioned former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who handed the reins over to Riley in 2017, one yr earlier than Mayfield would do the identical with Murray. “Simply two extremely gifted, pushed people that actually had been nice examples for the crew on learn how to be teammates, learn how to work and learn how to put together.”

But regardless of that drive to be one of the best, Mayfield and Murray by no means allowed a probably flamable scenario at Oklahoma to spill into controversy, even after encountering a pitfall or two.

Mayfield embraced the competitors, versus feeling threatened by Murray’s distinctive capability. And though he may need been a starter virtually wherever else in faculty soccer, Murray by no means grew to become disgruntled or a distraction for Mayfield or the Sooners, even after Mayfield retroactively was given an additional season of eligibility, which left Murray on the sidelines.

“It was a wholesome relationship for us,” Mayfield mentioned. “All egos had been put to the aspect. … And we had been capable of push one another and completely get one of the best out of one another.”

They channeled these aggressive streaks to assist the opposite in the end attain greatness — whereas having enjoyable alongside the best way.

“For having two gamers of that caliber in the identical assembly room, it was about as constructive as you might think about, as a result of there’s clearly one million various things that might’ve gone flawed the place it would not have been good for one or the opposite or each,” Riley mentioned previous to final weekend’s Crimson River Showdown, when he benched former five-star recruit Spencer Rattler, in favor of one other, Caleb Williams, who propelled the Sooners to an inconceivable comeback victory over Texas.

“They did not take s— from one another, nevertheless it was a wholesome competitors and a wholesome respect,” Riley mentioned of Mayfield and Murray. “And so they had been each good sufficient to determine that they might be taught one thing from the opposite.

“They definitely would’ve been good gamers anyway. However they pushed one another to develop into even higher.”


WHEN MAYFIELD AND Murray had been each at Oklahoma, apply appeared virtually as thrilling because the video games.

“Baker can be simply yelling your entire day, swatting the defensive coaches on the butts” after large performs, Stoops mentioned. “Unbelievable the power he introduced, made it enjoyable for everyone.”

Murray was as unbelievable working the scout-team offense, just about untouchable every time he would scramble out of the pocket. Stoops mentioned he and his assistants would rewatch these apply highlights, merely for leisure worth.

“It was similar to, holy cow,” Stoops mentioned.

When Mayfield and Murray weren’t tormenting Oklahoma’s defenders, they had been going at each other, competing to see who might bounce probably the most throws off the goalpost’s crossbar or land extra passes right into a trash can. The quarterbacks would all the time break up groups by even and odd jersey numbers, so Mayfield (carrying No. 6) and Murray (No. 1) might be on opposing sides; losers normally needed to carry the winners’ shoulder pads inside after apply.

“Right here we’re in the course of particular groups, an opportunity for these guys to loosen up, chill a bit bit, and as a substitute they are going all out, making an attempt to win these quarterback video games,” mentioned Ohio College assistant coach Tyler Tettleton, a former graduate assistant who labored with the quarterbacks at Oklahoma. “We seemed extra ahead to that over the rest in apply, simply due to how enjoyable and aggressive these two guys made it.”

That carried over into the assembly room, the place the quarterbacks perpetually squared off in a star guessing sport they referred to as “passcode.”

“Their degree of competitiveness was not like something I’ve ever been round. And I believe that is what made us so good these years. Everyone was feeding off these two guys. Not simply the quarterback room, however the entire crew.”

Tanner Schafer
Oklahoma QB 2017-present

“Say me and Kyler had been on a crew, me and Baker would give you a star, and we every took turns saying one phrase to our associate to attempt to get them to guess it — it simply bounced backwards and forwards till any person guessed the celeb,” Clark mentioned. “And we might play this for weeks on finish, as a result of they’re like, ‘OK we’re taking part in to 10. No, no, no, we’re taking part in first one to twenty. No, no, first one to 30.’ It simply saved occurring and on, simply because they wished to win even in one thing like that.”

When Mayfield and Murray weren’t taking part in passcode, the 2 would argue about virtually something, from who would win the Masters that yr, to who was higher within the online game Rocket League, to whose Texas highschool alma mater had the superior soccer program.

“Their degree of competitiveness was not like something I’ve ever been round,” mentioned Schafer, who continues to be on the Oklahoma roster. “And I believe that is what made us so good these years. Everyone was feeding off these two guys. Not simply the quarterback room, however the entire crew.”

It was a mutual bravado that additionally led to loads of trash discuss.

“He may present it otherwise,” Mayfield mentioned of Murray, “however behind closed doorways, he’s fairly the trash talker. Do not let him idiot you.”

Mayfield teased Murray for carrying round a keychain with a tiny bottle of sriracha sauce hooked up to it, which he would pop open to boost his meals. Murray by no means handed up a chance to take a shot at Mayfield’s velocity — or, in his opinion, lack thereof.

“We would be watching movie and Baker would take off on a scramble,” Clark mentioned, “and Kyler would type of smirk, like ‘Oh, I’d’ve taken that to the home.'”

But whereas they loved goofing round, Mayfield and Murray had been all enterprise when it mattered.

“They knew each reply to each query,” Clark mentioned. “Each blitz that was coming, each safety, each line shift, just like the again of their hand.”

And thru that, Riley believes, in addition they discovered from each other.

“The preparation, Baker is fairly meticulous with that, and I believe Kyler took lots from him,” Riley mentioned. “However I believe Kyler had the power in his thoughts to maintain issues quite simple. And I believe at occasions with Baker — generally with quarterbacks, you can’t know an excessive amount of, however you might be making an attempt to course of an excessive amount of at occasions — the best way Kyler was capable of break issues down and maintain them quite simple and maintain the principle factor the principle factor, I believe that is one thing that Baker took be aware of.

“And all of that was enjoyable to look at unfold.”


IN 2015, AS Mayfield guided Oklahoma to the playoff, Murray, then at Texas A&M, was seeking to switch.

As a result of Mayfield had just one season of eligibility remaining on the time, the Sooners had been seeking to take a switch quarterback. So Stoops had Riley, then in his first yr as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, examine tape of three potential quarterbacks — Will Grier, Kyle Allen, who’ve each since began video games within the NFL, and Murray — to find out which to pursue.

“Lincoln comes again and says, ‘I like all three. All three may also help us and may win for us,'” Stoops recalled. “However this man Kyler Murray, he can win a Heisman Trophy.'”

Positive sufficient, Murray would just do that in his lone season beginning for the Sooners.

“Typically you see issues again and again,” Riley mentioned, “after which abruptly you see one thing that is simply completely totally different and it simply hits you another way. That is how his tape hit for me.”

By that time, Mayfield was entrenched because the starter. However Murray’s pure expertise by no means allowed Mayfield to really feel complacent.

“Baker deep down knew that he needed to proceed to play at a excessive degree,” Riley mentioned, “simply because he had one other good participant within the room.”

However Mayfield welcomed the problem.

“He had the self-confidence to say, throw whoever in entrance of me, I’ll take him down,” Clark mentioned. “And Kyler was so self-confident, he knew, even when he solely had a yr, he was going to make all of it occur.”

When Murray initially picked Oklahoma, although, he assumed he’d have two years to play. However the summer time after the 2015 season, the Large 12 Convention voted to offer Mayfield a yr of eligibility again, since he walked-on to Oklahoma when he transferred from Texas Tech. The Sooners privately fearful Murray may depart because of this.

“However he did not flinch,” Stoops mentioned.

Murray redshirted through the 2016 season. Then in 2017, he was the backup, as Mayfield received the Heisman.

“Bake’s an incredible participant. He will get a variety of hate and all that, however I watched firsthand every day, how exhausting he labored, make throws that lots of people cannot make,” Murray mentioned. “I am glad that I acquired to be taught from him all through these years.”

Murray lastly acquired his probability, paradoxically, in Mayfield’s ultimate faculty residence sport. Mayfield had been suspended from beginning in opposition to West Virginia for grabbing his crotch and yelling, “F— you!” to the Kansas sidelines the weekend earlier than, after the Jayhawks snubbed Mayfield’s handshake try at midfield following the pregame coin toss. That put Murray behind heart on the opening collection in opposition to the Mountaineers.

Earlier than the primary snap, Stoops instructed these in his stadium suite to buckle up. And positive sufficient, on the very first play, Murray took off for a 66-yard run earlier than being dragged down on the West Virginia 4-yard line.

“And the individual most excited on our sideline is Baker,” Riley mentioned. “That was simply them, how they had been.”

The following day, although, as they watched the movie, Mayfield could not resist lobbing a “not quick sufficient” jab again at Murray for being caught from behind.

“The respect these guys had for one another went a good distance,” mentioned Austin Kendall, now Louisiana Tech’s beginning quarterback, who famous how a lot he discovered from Mayfield and Murray about management and preparation. “And I revered the hell out of these guys for it.”


WEEKS LATER, IN the aftermath of the season-ending-defeat to Georgia within the Rose Bowl, Mayfield stood a couple of ft away from Murray’s locker. As quickly as he completed answering questions on dropping the heartbreaking additional time thriller, he beelined to Murray and gave him a hug.

“They’re in nice fingers,” Mayfield had mentioned moments earlier than of the Sooners. “Kyler is one of the best athlete within the nation. … They will be simply advantageous.”

Simply as Mayfield had predicted, Oklahoma was greater than advantageous. Murray went on to interrupt Mayfield’s FBS single-season passing effectivity file whereas successful the Heisman and main Oklahoma again to the playoff.

“You would simply inform he had it — the best way he elevated his teammates, the best way he performed,” Mayfield mentioned. “He may present it another way, however he is extraordinarily aggressive. That is another excuse why he’s the place he’s.”

Their shared success from faculty has since carried into the professionals.

Final season, Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years. And behind Murray’s spectacular begin, Arizona is the NFL’s final unbeaten crew this season.

“They had been a variety of enjoyable to have within the room. … And I believe they ended up getting one of the best out of one another,” Riley mentioned. “They’re those that deserve the credit score as a result of they dealt with it in a approach that lots of people would not have.”

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss contributed.

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