Their current situations couldn’t be any more different: Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, last played in an NFL game in December 2015, while Mayfield — the 2017 Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award winner — is a consensus first-round projection in this year’s draft and a potential target of the Washington Redskins, who own the No. 13 pick.
This past season for the Sooners, Mayfield, who began his career at Texas Tech, threw for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. But his auxiliary on-field behavior has drawn criticism. In September, he apologized for planting the Oklahoma flag at midfield — in the middle of Ohio State’s logo — following the Sooners’ 31-16 upset win over the Buckeyes. In November, he grabbed his crotch and fired off an expletive-laden rant during a 41-3 blowout over Kansas.
But while engulfed in a sea of reporters after Tuesday’s North Team practice, Mayfield sounded self-assured and seasoned for the spotlight, insisting he is unfazed by the comparison between him and Manziel.
“It is what it is,” Mayfield said. “If I paid too much attention to it, then I’d be focusing on the wrong things. I came down here to play the game and show them that I love playing it.”
The Browns, who selected Manziel in the first round with the 22nd pick in 2012, have the No. 1 overall pick this April. Asked if he has to convince Cleveland during his Senior Bowl interview this week that he is nothing like the troubled Manziel, Mayfield replied: “No. Not at all.”
He is a polarizing prospect for sure, but Mayfield stressed he has more important things to worry about than his persona. His Senior Bowl arrival was delayed because of the health of his mother, Gina. “Mom’s not doing too great,” he said. “So, family first. Always. Doesn’t matter the situation, I would never put myself before my mom.
“[She’s] slowly getting better,” he added. “Has a special appointment Thursday, so, as soon as I found out, I booked my flight home. It wasn’t about delaying measuring. I’ll measure in tomorrow if it’s a big deal. I don’t care. Like I said, family first.”
His other love is football: It’s “everything,” he said. “It’s led me to be a better man, it’s challenged me to face adversity, learn what I’m all about, it’s brought me some of my best friends and brought my family closer together, realizing that you have to keep your inner circle tight. There’s a lot of things that stem from the game of football. It’s a lot more than a game. It’s all the things that come with it.”
The Sooners star — who officially measured 6 feet 3/8 inches tall, shorter than Oklahoma’s 6-1 listing — finds himself in a field of quarterbacks that features Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Washington State’s Luke Falk. But Mayfield is the main attraction.
The Denver Broncos requested he be added to the North squad’s roster, which they are tutoring throughout the week. “John Elway asks you to be on his team, you don’t say no,” Mayfield joked.
For all of his unsportsmanlike behavior, his confidence and gunslinger attitude remain his biggest assets. “If you’re not out there relaxing and playing, it’s not going to look very good,” he said, though he noted he still has a lot to learn from the Broncos during Senior Bowl week, including getting comfortable working under center.
“There’s a lot to be said about throwing the ball, the measurables,” Mayfield said. “But the mental knowledge that you can’t test until you’re out there with the system, that’s what I’m hoping to take away.”