NORMAN, Okla. -- Matt Ray was on his way to "The Huff" to play basketball last winter when the RA introduced him to "Bake," the new student who'd just moved into the hall.
"I was in a hurry, and was like, 'What's up dude?' and kind of blew it off," Ray recalled.
But on the way to the gym, it hit Ray.
That was Baker Mayfield.
On New Year's Eve, Mayfield will lead Oklahoma into the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl against Clemson. This year, Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting after throwing for 35 touchdowns, propelling the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and a spot in the playoff.
Before Mayfield emerged as one of the most recognizable faces in college football, he was the new guy nobody knew on the sixth floor of the Muldrow Tower freshman dorm.
"Being the new guy anywhere sucks," Mayfield said. "But it wasn't a problem for me.
"Because they welcomed me in."
The previous fall, Hayden Shaw was the one who didn't know anyone in the hall, which happened to be the honors wing of the dorm. But through sports, he quickly connected with Nick Pine and Ray, who went to Lawton (Oklahoma) Eisenhower High School together. Their Eisenhower classmate, Brandon Boggs, lived elsewhere but became a de facto hall resident.
"For some reason, we lived on the scholastic hall," Ray said. "They were all cool people. But none of them were into sports. So when it came to clicking, it was [the four of] us."
When Mayfield moved in, the clique swelled to five.
Not right away, though.
"If you didn't know who he was, you never would've known," Pine said. "He never acted like he was anyone special. He acted like another one of the guys on the hall."
"It was probably weird for him, because he was like a celebrity at Texas Tech," Boggs said of Mayfield, who threw for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 as a Texas Tech freshman.
The ice was broken when the foursome needed a fifth for basketball. They asked Mayfield, and he was in.
"Bake is not nearly as good at basketball," Boggs joked.
But Mayfield's now-hallmark competitiveness manifested itself quickly in the pickup games.
"The first time we hung out, this kid is talking trash to [Mayfield] as he checks it back to him," Ray recalled. "Called him 'frat-something.' That pissed Baker off. He dribbles the ball twice, then runs this kid over and makes the layup. That was the first time we saw the other side of Baker."
The Muldrow boys had such a blast playing hoops, they decided to put an intramural softball team together.
"We had talked about it -- it was formed in theory," Ray said. "But when Bake got there, basically he was the one who said, 'I'm in, and we're doing this.' "
They picked a NSFW team name, even had jerseys made and wore them to class the day of their first game, like a high school football team.
"We practiced a lot, too. We took it pretty serious," Boggs said.
"We practiced a couple of times," Ray retorted.
They won in a run-rule in their first game, with Mayfield going yard in his first at-bat.
"Baker's range at shortstop was unreal," Pine said. "Nobody could drop those bloopers on him. He would make diving catches all the time. And he had a phenomenal arm. So he'd sit way back in the grass."
"I couldn't even see the ball cross the diamond when he threw it," Ray said.
Again, Mayfield's competitive edge surfaced.
"We're whupping this team, but this skinny second baseman said something about Baker," Ray said.
"About Tech not wanting him and how OU didn't want him, either," Boggs said.
By the end, the second baseman had shut up.
"Baker little-brothered him," Ray said. "Every time we switched innings, Baker would run by and say, 'How did you like that?' "
Mayfield's roommate, Jonathan Refsler, couldn't have had a more different personality. He didn't have a cell phone or a car and spent most of his free time playing "World of Warcraft." Nobody on the hall had really spoken with Refsler, much less hung out with him. To everyone's surprise, Mayfield and Refsler hit it off.
"Baker brought him out of his shell. Included Jonathan in everything," Pine said. "That's when he began to open up."
The first softball game, Refsler walked roughly a mile to watch the game. Came to watch the title game, too.
They won the championship, finishing the season undefeated. Afterward, the team circled their cars in the parking lot and turned their headlights on. The celebration culminated with Refsler and Mayfield staging a dance-off.
Mayfield, meanwhile, was finally cleared to join the Sooners for spring football.
"They had a practice that students could watch, and several of us went," Ray said. "At this point, it's Baker, our friend on the football team, not the starting quarterback. [Coach Bob] Stoops had the students come down to take pictures with the team. Baker went out of his way to come find us and got us in the front for the picture."
That fall, Mayfield was a member of the team but was ineligible because of Big 12 transfer rules. Yet he still played on the Muldrow intramural football team.
"He was like, 'I don't even want to play quarterback. I'll play receiver, don't target me every time or anything,' " Pine said. "We won the first game, against the best team, too.
"The second game came around, he's playing wide receiver, and nobody really cared. Then it gets down to where we're losing by six, and there's like 10 seconds on the clock."
So they conjured up a trick play where Mayfield would throw the ball.
"He throws a bomb like 60 yards on a dime, somebody catches it and we win the game," Pine said. "Thirty minutes later, we get an email saying he wasn't allowed to play anymore."
"It was all good until he made that throw," Shaw said.
This season has been a whirlwind not just for Mayfield, but his old Muldrow buddies as well. It wasn't that long ago they were inventing dorm games such as hallway dodgeball or hallway golf. "It's honestly really weird to see all this now," Ray said.
Yet just because Mayfield has become a college football star and they no longer live together, their relationship hasn't changed all that much. Shaw is now a Ruf/Nek -- a member of the OU spirit club -- and before games, coming out of the tunnel, Mayfield will find him.
"He's still a buddy," Shaw said. "He was just another dude hanging out. It's so crazy to see what he's doing."
The group doesn't see him as much. Mayfield is overwhelmed with football, and the guys are busy as well. "But when we see him on campus, we pick right back up, telling stories about the dorm," Pine said.
"He still texts us random things," Ray said. "If we run into him at the bar, he'll definitely go out of his way to come get us."
And they've already talked about getting the softball team together again to go after another title.
"Whenever softball season comes around," Ray said, "Bake will be the first one hitting us up."