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NEW YORK — Baker Mayfield’s college career had just ended when the Oklahoma quarterback spoke about Kyler Murray in the Rose Bowl locker room last season.

“They are in great hands,” the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner said about his team. “They have the best coach in the country and Kyler is the best athlete in the country. They’re going to be just fine.”

Murray not only succeeded Mayfield as the Sooners’ starting quarterback, he could pick up the same trophy Saturday night when the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner is announced.

Mayfield gets a Heisman vote this year (“I think you know exactly who I’m voting for,” he said this week) and then was asked during a Cleveland Browns news conference why he would choose Murray.

“You take him out from OU, and they’re not in the playoffs. Best player in the country. Fifty touchdowns responsible for,” Mayfield said. “To me, after being around him it might be easy for me to say that, how special of a player he is, but to me it’s obvious. It’s nothing against (Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa). Absolutely not. I think he’s had an incredible year, but I think it showed for itself (in the Big 12 Championship game).”

On Friday afternoon, Murray will join Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins at the New York Stock Exchange to ring the closing bell. The Heisman finalists will congregate again Saturday when the winner is announced.

Murray has been in contact with Mayfield this week and said his former teammate’s advice was just to enjoy the experience during his first trip to New York City.

The similarities of their journeys are well chronicled. Mayfield (Texas Tech) and Murray (Texas A&M) transferred to OU after their true freshman seasons. Both have led their teams to the College Football Playoff. And now both could be the first quarterbacks from the same school to win back-to-back Heismans.

When Murray arrived at Oklahoma following the 2015 season, he thought Mayfield only had one year of eligibility remaining. It was a perfect transition, he believed, because he would have to sit out during his transfer season.

The Big 12 then voted to allow Mayfield an extra season of eligibility since he was a walk-on at Texas Tech. Since he wasn’t recruited, he didn’t get penalized an extra season for transferring to Oklahoma.

“It was unexpected. When (Riley) recruited me to come, that was the plan. Bake had one year and I sit down and get better on and off the field and then be ready for my opportunity. But that didn’t happen,” Murray said. “It was obviously an adjustment. But for me, being the competitor that I am, I wasn’t going to sit back and let it kill me or anything like that. I just had to work and here we are.”

While the news was tough, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“I thank Baker for sure. He doesn’t know it, but I thank him,” Murray said. “No competitor wants to sit for the time that I did but I don’t think I would be here right now or playing the way that I am if I didn’t get to see how it’s done and watching his doing his thing.

“Obviously having Coach (Lincoln) Riley to help me along the way and just competing against him every day. Whether he knew it or not, practices were my game day. I’m thankful to have Bake in my corner and Coach Riley. I try to get better each and every day. It’s all part of the process.”

Murray was asked how much more prepared he was this year to be the Sooners’ starting quarterback compared to if he was thrust into the job in 2017.

“I don’t know, honestly. I was prepared to be the starter last year,” Murray said. “Obviously that didn’t happen. Everything happens for a reason. I think I’m doing what I’m doing now after going to battle with him. It was the preparation, sitting out and sitting back and having to mature on and off the field and trusting the process and just everything that went into it.

“I think that’s why we’re having the season we’re having.”

Eric Bailey

918-581-8391

eric.bailey@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

This article originally ran on tulsaworld.com.

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