A year and a half ago, Baker Mayfield planted a foreign flag in Ohio Stadium.
The Sooners had gotten their revenge one year after Noah Brown's three-hour voyage into the cosmos and well, definitely don't click on this:
If unforgivable has a visage, it's the leader of an enemy - with no scheduled appearances on future schedules - disrespecting the logo, the stadium, the locals and their dead ancestors with a ceremonial conquering that followed a literal one. Mayfield and the Sooners had gotten the ultimate last word.
The only way Ohio State could return serve would be if they ever met in the postseason or scheduled another home-and-home, which means there was no defined opportunity for a Revenge Tour (which was probably for the for the best). Alas, vengeance was not in the cards.
But then one year ago this month, the Cleveland Browns - the punchline for every single joke at Ohio's expense ever since the the Cuyahoga River stopped burning - drafted Mr. Unforgivable, who modeled both his draft night and his style of play after one of the NFL's greatest gunslingers:
There are those people who are in your corner no matter what, you cant do any wrong, even when you do wrong. And then there are those people that no matter what you do theyre going to dislike you and thats not going to change. - Brett Favre #DraftEve #MMO pic.twitter.com/6bCE9SxqI6
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) April 26, 2018
They took Denzel Ward three picks later, and Ohio's punchline, then on a 1-31 stretch against the rest of the NFL during Mayfield's senior year, had its latest attempt at a cornerstone: The Flag Planter. About half of the football fans in the state would have to learn to love him. Being a college-and-pro fan can be tricky; Browns fans were just getting used to having Jabrill Peppers as one of their own.
So Mayfield was set to become the 30th starting quarterback for the Browns since the franchise reformed in 1999. It turns out the 30th time was the charm.
He broke the NFL record for touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback, passing both Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson in league history. Mayfield also threw for 3,725 yards and brought energy to Cleveland football that previously seemed impossible. The Believeland mystic that the Cavaliers and Indians had both brought the city had completely avoided the Browns for so long, it felt like a lost cause.
In total, Mayfield now owns 16 rookie records for a team that had lost all 16 of its games the season prior to his arrival.
Mayfield tied or broke 16 rookie records for the Browns, a franchise that had lost all 16 of the games it had played one season earlier.
The flag-planting episode is no less traumatizing today as it was in September 2017. Seeing Mayfield as Genghis Khan on scholarship was a nice reminder that a significant portion of our fan base would not oppose a permanent statue of Marcus Hall, facing south right at the northern border, saluting the state of Michigan.
Aside from the on-field performance, Mayfield has quickly helped Cleveland become a destination (!) for NFL talent, and one season removed from the winless one - the Browns are a legitimate playoff contender. The turnaround has been nothing short of staggering, and Mayfield has plenty to do with it.
One year after abruptly becoming a contractual Ohioan he's even publicly defending the Browns to professional trolls like Colin Cowherd:
Come to Cleveland and ask O if he actually likes it. Just because you say you have a source doesnt mean youre not full of BS.
And while youre at it... come see if Im a baby... #10ToesDown
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) April 5, 2019
Clapping back at an empty sports radio hot take? One of us! One of us!
Mayfield turns 24 a week from tomorrow and has a long NFL runway ahead of him. The Buckeyes currently have two players from Mayfield's high school in Austin on the roster in WR Garrett Wilson and QB Matthew Baldwin. It does not hurt to have a hometown hero living the dream two hours north of campus.
A year and a half ago Mayfield planted a foreign flag in Ohio Stadium. Today he's leading Ohio's pro football revival. The next flag he plants will be at someone else's expense.