Baker Mayfield faces his critics, be they perceived or real.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal sports writer Don Williams, TCU coach Gary Patterson, Texas Tech fans, and Red Raider coach Kliff Kingsbury, have all experienced this firsthand.
Mayfield hasn’t sounded off much on his own behalf lately, but the Oklahoma quarterback spoke up Wednesday when he’d had enough of people questioning untested receivers on the Sooner roster.
“Y'all are going to have to show some respect for my receivers,” Mayfield wrote on Twitter. “People saying I don't have help, say what you want about me. Not my guys.
He penned his own reply to that post: “But the great thing about that is, we’re going to show the world in less than a month.”
Athletes often seek “a world” that is aimed against them. The motivation gained while trying to prove that world wrong has fueled some of the greatest performances in sport.
Mayfield is no different, except that he has made a career out of it, ever since he was a Lake Travis High School senior viewed by some as too small and slow to thrive at the Power 5 level.
It’s clear how that all turned out.
Truth is, there has been negative rhetoric about OU’s returning receivers. Outside of tight end Mark Andrews — a proven target — Mayfield’s returning options combined for just 453 yards receiving last season. Whether they're freshmen — like CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo — or returning players who didn't receive much opportunity in 2016, all have something to prove.
They also could all probably use an endorsement at the moment, especially less than a week after inside receiver Nick Basquine was announced out for the season with an Achilles injury.
Mayfield was wise to provide one.
He has 53,100 Twitter followers, a platform that enabled his post to receive more than 6,000 different reactions and likely thousands more views. There is little difference between Mayfield taking a public stand for the Sooner receivers online than during a press conference.
The impact isn't so much that other people saw what Mayfield wrote, but that his receivers saw it.
OU coach Lincoln Riley didn’t elaborate much on Friday when asked about the effect Mayfield’s stand might have had on players, but he agreed with his quarterback that the receiving group isn’t devoid of playmakers, and that he believes in them, too.
“I don’t know about Twitter,” Riley said. “I don’t think anybody really cares about that. But I think they’ve just seen … They see what’s happening behind these walls. I’d just say that we have some guys who have to grow up and go do it, but we’ve got some guys who we are very confident that they are going to make the plays when called upon this year. Myself, Baker, all of us.”
Leave it to Mayfield to make sure the message gets out. Riley said one trait the quarterback shares with others he has coached is the “the willingness to be yourself.”
“You’ve got to do it kind of in the framework of your own personality. He’s been able to do that and other great leaders have too,” Riley said. “You get some guys that are high-strung, kind of like he is, and aggressive about it. Some guys are a little bit more laid back and a little bit more passive about it.
“Everybody can be a great leader. They’ve got to pay attention to the other people and want to help them, and want to give every amount of effort that they can to the program and to leading.”
Kentucky transfer Jeff Badet was sitting at home watching television during the offseason when his phone blinked and revealed a group text message.
“Hey, you’ve got to meet me in the indoor (facility) at 3:30,” it read.
It was Mayfield gathering up his receivers.
“Everybody showed up and we ran routes for probably an hour, with just Bake and Austin Kendall and some other quarterbacks. That’s just something. … When Baker says something, we listen,” Badet said.
Emotionally, OU’s offense has few things going better for it than Mayfield. He isn’t a strong, silent type. His orders ring loud and clear.
Regardless of what sound bytes Mayfield has in store the rest of the season, it’s likely the one he typed into his keyboard this week hit each of his intended targets straight in the hands.