After accepting the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback, Mayfield said he and Manziel were “two completely different people.”
Mayfield is at the NFL combine and is projected as a possible first-round pick in the draft in April.
It’s been four years since Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman at Texas A&M in 2012, was taken 22nd overall by Cleveland and dumped after two trouble-filled seasons. A former Texas high school star like Mayfield, Manziel has been out of football for two years.
After an off-season arrest for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, Mayfield planted an OU flag at midfield after a win at Ohio State. He made a lewd gesture toward the Kansas sideline after the Jayhawks refused to shake his hand before the coin flip.
“We’re two completely different people,” Mayfield said. “I’ve always been a team-oriented guy. Not saying that Johnny wasn’t. But I’ve quickly earned the respect of my teammates because of how I worked.
“I wasn’t given the natural talent that Johnny had. Because he’s a talent. And there’s a reason he got taken in the first round, amazing player. We’re just not the same mentally. Just wired differently.”
Mayfield acknowledged that NFL personnel have talked to him about having more awareness of his social media use and trying to stay out of trouble. But coaches have long praised his leadership and infectious energy.
“I’ve always been an outgoing person, somebody that’s confident, somebody who has passion and energy for the game of football and for whoever I’m playing for, I’m going to be passionate about it,” said Mayfield, who broke his own single-season passing efficiency rating and threw for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns.
After the Sooners lost to Georgia in the Rose Bowl in the national semifinals, Mayfield stayed in the Los Angeles area and spent most of his time there preparing for the combine and draft.
“This process right now is different than anything of the stuff I’ve been through before because it’s more individualized right now than anything else,” Mayfieldsaid. “Normally in the off-season I’m with the team. We’re working toward one goal together.”
The Kansas sideline incident cost Mayfield a start in his final home game when coach Lincoln Riley benched him. He also apologized for the flag plant. But Mayfield said the arrest in Arkansas last February is what braced him for the Manziel chatter.
“I didn’t want to be portrayed as the villain or somebody like that,” Mayfield said. “I do good things within my community. I’m not trying to say those cover up any mistakes that I’ve made. But there’s always a learning curve when you’re growing up.”
And Mayfield knows where his career is taking him next.
“You get a bunch of grown men that work really hard, so it’ll be different going from 18 (to) 22-year-olds to people that are feeding their families, their children,” Mayfield said. “A lot of these guys make their money just based off work ethic and never quitting.”
Mayfield thinks that’s what he’s bringing to the NFL, not Manziel-like baggage.