CLEVELAND — Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury used to coach Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield when the two were together at Texas Tech University during the 2013 season, but it was the only year they would be on the same sideline.
Following the arrival of Patrick Mahomes in the 2014 recruiting class, Mayfield made the decision to transfer to the University of Oklahoma, where he led the Sooners to a College Football Playoff and earned the 2017 Heisman Trophy.
And while their tenure together did not have the best of endings, Kingsbury is proud to see the kind of quarterback Mayfield has become.
“He is a winner, a tremendous competitor,” Kingsbury said in a conference call with the Cleveland media Wednesday. “As far as the quarterback position, I just remember as soon as you installed anything, he could go out there and execute it, and at a high level the first time doing it.
“For a young player, a true freshman who walked on and was not there all summer, I was really blown away by that and he continued to get better and better. He played at a really high level, and you could tell he was going to have a great career.”
In eight games for Texas Tech during his freshman season, Mayfield completed 218 of his 340 attempts (64.1 percent) for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns against nine interceptions, but the program and player were headed in different directions, especially with the arrival of Patrick Mahomes in the 2014 recruiting class.
Following the issues at Texas Tech, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Mayfield put together a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2017 where he completed 285 of his 404 throws (70.5 percent) for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns against six interceptions to cap off a four-year college career.
During his three years at Oklahoma and one season with Texas Tech, Mayfield completed 1,026 of his 1,497 attempts (68.5 percent) for 14,607 yards and 131 touchdowns against 30 interceptions.
“I have been proud of his success and what all he has accomplished,” Kingsbury said. “It has been phenomenal to watch. It will be fun to go out there with Kyler (Murray) and compete against him. There are a lot of strong relationships there, so it will be a heck of a matchup.”
In 27 games since the Browns selected Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the franchise quarterback has completed 565 of his 917 attempts (61.6 percent) for 6,834 yards and 42 touchdowns against 30 interceptions.
Also, Mayfield has rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 59 career carries.
“He is really competitive, and he has been pretty much doubted his entire life, and he has used that as motivation and used it successfully,” Kingsbury said. “I really do not know why you would change. I am sure people are going to love you or going to hate you regardless of how you motivate yourself, but it works for him and he has proved people wrong at every level.
“You could see his skill set and how talented he was. To be honest, a guy like that, he just refuses to be denied. The more people telling him he can’t do something, the more he wants to prove them wrong and he has done it at every level. I would not say overly surprised. He had a great coach in (Oklahoma’s) Lincoln Riley, who played to his strengths that really helped elevate that program together. It has just been fun to watch, all the success he has had.”