CLEVELAND — On Sunday afternoon, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray are going to meet for the second time in the NFL as the Cleveland Browns battle the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Murray and the Cardinals won the first matchup back in 2019, but the pair of Heisman winning quarterbacks has much more of a history together than just that single game.
The pair spent time together as teammates at the University of Oklahoma in 2016 and 2017 after Murray transferred in from Texas A&M. While Murray did have to sit out the 2016 season at Oklahoma after his transfer, he did serve as the backup quarterback during Mayfield’s Heisman-winning campaign in his second year on campus.
“Kyler, it was pretty fun to have him in the same quarterback room,” Mayfield said to reporters earlier this week. “That is obviously a tremendous player. For him to be patient while I took the extra year and did my senior lap year, it was just fun. We had a great room and a great team, and there was a high expectation for us.”
When Murray first got on campus, Mayfield was the budding star. The elder Mayfield put together a stellar junior season for the Sooners, throwing for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns while Murray watched from the sidelines after his transfer. The next year, Mayfield won his Heisman Trophy, throwing for 4,627 and 43 touchdowns to just six interceptions. That season, Murray was used as a bit player, throwing for 359 yards and three scores in very limited action across seven games. There was enough there to know Murray was going to be great, but there was no questioning that was Mayfield’s team.
“At that point in time, obviously, all egos were put to the side, and we were able to do some special things,” Mayfield said. “He was able to play my senior year to put him in on some certain packages and do whatever it was going to take to win.”
Once Mayfield became the No. 1 pick by the Browns, the Sooners became Murray’s team. He followed up Mayfield’s Heisman campaign with an electric one of his own before continuing to follow in Mayfield’s footsteps and became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Murray’s lone season as a star on the Sooners was even better than Mayfield’s best. He threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns and added in 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Across 14 games, Murray averaged 383 yards of total offense per game.
The star quarterbacks have plenty in common aside from the high expectations placed upon them. They both found themselves at Oklahoma by way of a transfer. While Mayfield’s walk-on story after arriving from Texas Tech, Murray’s story is a bit less known. Unlike Mayfield, he was one of the top recruits in the country not only in football, but baseball as well. Murray became the first person to become a top 10 overall pick in both the NFL Draft and the MLB Draft, where he went No. 8 to the Oakland Athletics.
Despite the two sharing so much in their past, their NFL careers haven’t been as similar after their selections at the top of their respective draft. Murray is one of the MVP frontrunners, although has historically faded down the stretch of seasons, while Mayfield is one of the most debated players in the NFL. Right now, Murray is one of the most electric players in the NFL.
“Dynamic, maybe. I do not know,” Mayfield said when asked to describe Murray. “He has all his bases covered. He is obviously a tremendous athlete, but I think he sees and understands the concepts in space a lot better than people might give him credit for. He is able to take advantage of space because he is so quick, but he is able to dissect a defense.”
The two have been connected at every level of football, from playing high school ball in Texas, to starring at Oklahoma, and now leading playoff-caliber teams in the NFL. Sunday is just another chapter in that connection.