Oklahoma junior quarterback Baker Mayfield won the first of what could be many awards Monday afternoon as he was named the winner of the Burlsworth Trophy, given annually since 2010 to college football's most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
Mayfield, who was joined by Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib and Washington State quarterback Luke Falk as finalists for the award, has guided the Sooners to an 11-1 record, a Big 12 Championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. The No. 4 Sooners will meet No. 1 Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
"It's pretty special to me," Mayfield said of winning the award. "It's all about the journey to get where you are and the success is due to the work you put in and the support you get from people on the outside. It's pretty special to me to learn more about Brandon (Burlsworth) throughout this process.
"When you walk on you take a chance. No one else believes in you besides the people that are closest to you. That's what it's all about. I met Brandon's family, his former coaches and teammates. It's all about the support you have from the inside and yourself to put in the work and have success."
Mayfield ranks No. 2 nationally in yards per pass attempt (9.6) and pass efficiency rating (178.9), No. 6 in passing TDs (35) and points responsible for per game (21.0) and No. 7 in pass completion percentage (.686). The Austin, Texas, native has accounted for 42 touchdowns and only five turnovers (8.4 to 1 ratio) on the season and has helped OU surpass 500 yards of total offense in nine of 12 games, including in each of the last seven.
In addition, he has thrown for at least one touchdown in all 12 games and for at least three TDs in eight contests. He has also rushed for 420 yards and seven scores.
For the purposes of the award, a walk-on is defined as a player who began his first season of participation with an FBS program without financial aid of any kind from his university's athletic department.
Mayfield began his collegiate career was a walk-on at Texas Tech in 2013.
"Brandon had offers to Division II schools, but he believed in himself so he walked on to a big-time program, which is very similar to what my story is," Mayfield said. "He worked really hard to get where he did, and I'm still working to hopefully be where he ended up. He got drafted high; it's a succesful story and it's pretty neat."
The Burlsworth Trophy is named in honor of former University of Arkansas walk-on offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth, who became a three-year Razorback starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. Burlsworth was selected 63rd overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL Draft but was tragically killed in a car accident 11 days later. The Burlsworth Foundation was created in his memory and supports the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular those children who have limited opportunities.