Mayfield meets the press

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, battling a flu-like illness, makes his Rose Bowl first media appearance after showing up late for the last 20 minutes of his team's session Saturday in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — Baker Mayfield spoke.

He spoke.

Stop the presses.

Why’d he speak?

“So my teammates had to stop answering questions for you guys.”

So he answered questions.

Even if nobody exactly answered the million dollar question: how sick is he?

He sounded hoarse, but claimed that was from yelling at practice.

He might not have looked like a ghost, nor ashen, but he was not entirely himself.

Some of the color had been removed from his personality and some of the color had been removed from, you know, his color.

How sick is he?

“He’s sick, we’re trying to push him to get better,” Sooner coach Lincoln Riley said. “Trying to just get over the hump. Haven’t been able to get over the hump.”

Mayfield made it sound like it’s all downhill from here.

“Yesterday was the best I felt all week,” he said.

Perhaps the best, but ultimately a not very telling answer, came from linebacker Ogbo Okoronkwo.

“He’s fine,” he said, “just sniffles.”

Then, just after saying Mayfield hadn’t gotten over the hump, Riley made it sound like the hump might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

“I think he’ll be ready to play. He’ll be ready to play,” the coach said. “Will he be at 100 percent physically? We’ll see. But he’s not going to miss this one.”

And, you know what it all means? It means if you thought Baker Mayfield couldn’t add to his legend any more than winning a national championship might add to his legend, you’re wrong.

Now he can win a national championship, or get the Sooners one victory from the national championship … with the flu.

“It’s flu-like,” Mayfield said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the flu, but it’s pretty much like that.”

Fine. Flu-like. Same difference.

Back in the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan looked a fair amount worse than Mayfield looked answering questions Saturday. Jordan scored 38 points in a Game 5 90-88 victory over the Jazz and one game later they were again the champs.

Mayfield first went to Texas Tech as a walk-on. Denied a scholarship and his old job back after injury, he transferred to OU, moving into Adams Tower before the coaches knew he was there or had even offered him a scholarship. He has since become a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist and a one-time winner.

Now, like Jordan, he gets his own "flu game.”

This is a totally serious line that’s about to be written in this story:

What could possibly go wrong?

Put Iowa State on the field, get the Sooners to lull themselves to sleep after taking an early lead, and Mayfield, as he wound up proving, is capable of pressing once the lead is gone, not play winning football and letting victory slip away.

But this is not that.

This is the Rose Bowl.

The Granddaddy.

This is a proud football program seeking its eighth national championship, along a path that winds through Hollywood adjacent Pasadena. And this is Mayfield, who’s seemingly answered every call, seemingly done it all, a leader that might just come around in the college game about as often as Secretariat comes around in the sport of kings.

You think he’s not going to make the most of it?

“We look pretty good right now, I think we’re practicing well,” Mayfield said. “I think we’re settling into the game plan. Been working on it for a while and I’m confident where we’re at right now.”

See?

He’s got it all figured out.

He’s lying in wait.

It’s that simple.

Well, all right, maybe it’s not that simple. Because he’s clearly been sick and he’s clearly not fully himself and this is SEC champ Georgia on the other side of the ball and, yeah, maybe he needs to be at full strength.

Sure, if you’re going to be all literal and stuff. But when, beyond his passing efficiency numbers, has “literal” applied to Mayfield.

The Sooner quarterback is about story, not numbers nor nuts and bolts.

His story, one of the all-time great stories, can now get even better.

This is Baker Mayfield.

Bet against him at your peril.

Contact Jeff Cali by email at jcali@theadanews.com.