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Oklahoma Sooners Football: The Long Road Back to Lubbock

Baker Mayfield’s journey from Tech walk-on to Sooners star is well documented. On Saturday, he’ll finally be back.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Day Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to forget now, but it took Baker Mayfield some real chutzpah to transfer to Oklahoma when he did.

After all, the Sooners had five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster and had just wrapped the 2014 season with a stunning victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a game that made Trevor Knight look like the next great OU QB. And Knight was just a redshirt freshman, too.

The next two years, though, played out like a dream for Mayfield. Kliff Kingsbury blocked his transfer, forcing Baker to the sidelines for an entire year while Knight’s career imploded. Blake Bell moved to tight end before the season, Kendal Thompson transferred to Utah and Cody Thomas didn’t look like anyone’s idea of an upgrade. Suddenly, the path to the starting job was clear. Baker seized it decisively. He even got his year of eligibility back this offseason.

But winning the OU quarterback battle was just the latest in a long series of improbable results for the Sooners star.

At Lake Travis High School near Austin, Mayfield was always undersized—5-feet-2 as a freshman, 5-10 by his junior year. Baker’s vertical deficiencies kept him from getting the offers he wanted. As his father tells it, Baker attended a Sooners game as a junior in high school and met some of the OU staff.

Baker never heard from his favorite school again after that.

Spurning offers from schools like Washington State and Florida Atlantic, Mayfield decided to get in the mix for the Texas Tech job despite his lack of a scholarship. Mayfield won the competition over Davis Webb and led the Raiders to early victories before sustaining an injury in Week 5 against Kansas. Kingsbury didn’t put Mayfield back in right away when he got healthy, and the team faltered down the stretch. When Kingsbury declared the competition still open before the Holiday Bowl, Baker decided he’d had enough. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year wanted a team that would value him properly.

It’s funny, because if Baker had stayed at Texas Tech, Oklahoma would probably be the first school on his hit list. His childhood team, spurning him because of his size and watching in horror as he lights them up on Saturdays.

Fortunately, that’s not how things turned out.

No, Baker has instead made Tech his most public adversary, right up there with TCU and its tease of a head coach, Gary Patterson.

This Saturday, though, will be a special sort of homecoming for Mayfield, and the chance to beat the Raiders on the field where he once did battle for them. Baker has played down this matchup as much as possible, but he’s probably been looking forward to this game since the day he showed up unannounced on the OU practice field.

Mayfield must feel incredulous when Texas Tech fans pretend that Patrick Mahomes is the superior quarterback, that they lucked out the day Baker walked out the door. He must feel relieved that, whatever struggles his defense has had, they’ll never be as porous as the unit he left behind in Lubbock.

I’m sure he shakes his head any time he sees articles calling Kingsbury one of his “biggest fans.”

Truth is, most of Red Raider nation has a healthy disdain for their former signal-caller, and this Saturday we’ll find out exactly how Tech fans feel about the man who left Lubbock for greener pastures, calling OU a “better academic opportunity” and a “better school.”

If articles like this are any indication, Baker better be prepared for something harder than a tortilla on Saturday. Chances are, he’ll love every minute of it.