Baker Mayfield to recruiters: Thanks for not wanting me

Mayfield: 'I'm an honest person' (1:12)

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield shares his thoughts on speaking his mind rather than staying quiet and how he feels being favored going into their bowl game against Clemson. (1:12)

If Baker Mayfield sounds angry, it's probably because he is.

Sure, he's plenty cool under pressure and doesn't easily rattle. But go back and watch some of his games this season at Oklahoma. He plays like somebody just showered him with the nastiest of insults. He plays angry, and it has been that way ever since he put up big numbers at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, only to be labeled as an undersized system quarterback unworthy of a big-time scholarship.

All that really matters now: He's a big-time quarterback who has the Sooners on the biggest of stages, and what drives Mayfield is the same thing that drove him back in high school when just about everybody was telling him he wasn't good enough (or big enough) to play at this level.

"That's made me who I am today, all the stuff I had to overcome, just going out and grinding it out and working for it," Mayfield told ESPN.com. "That's who I am. That's who I've always been. It's made me better, not only as a football player, but as a person."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Mayfield has been the missing piece for the Sooners, who rebounded from five losses a year ago and an upset loss to Texas earlier this season to play their way into a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Clemson on Thursday.

Nobody saw this coming from the Sooners back on Oct. 10, when they wilted in the Dallas heat against the Longhorns, and nobody saw Mayfield coming, either. He walked on at Texas Tech as a true freshman in 2013 and led the Red Raiders to wins in each of his first five starts before injuring his leg. Unsure about his future at Texas Tech as to whether he would be placed on scholarship, Mayfield decided to leave and take his shot as a walk-on again -- this time at Oklahoma.

"For him to just show up without ever calling anybody here tells you what kind of belief he has in himself," Stoops said. "He's a special story. He wasn't going to let anybody decide his football future for him. He was going to be the one to decide it."

Mayfield, who's listed at 6-foot-1, wasn't quite 5-foot-11 as a junior in high school. He was ranked by ESPN as the No. 69 pocket passer in the country and became so disillusioned with the recruiting process that he decided at one point he'd just go to Florida Atlantic.

"They told me they wanted me, that they had a scholarship for me and it was on the beach," Mayfield recalled. "What 18-year-old doesn't want to go to school on the beach? My dad sat me down and said: 'You're better than that. That's not where you want to go. You're just settling.' "

Mayfield knew his dad was right. But to this day, he seethes over the way quarterbacks are evaluated and how blind the process can be to what's really important about the position.

"One of the problems is that a lot of the people evaluating quarterbacks now, I'll guarantee you they never played quarterback," Mayfield said. "They don't know what to look for. Anybody can find a kid who's 6-foot-4 and has a big arm and looks like he's ready to play, but that doesn't mean he has any of the mental aspects that it takes to play the position at this level.

"You look at the NFL now, and you go from 6-foot-6 all the way down to 5-foot-11 with Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. You don't necessarily have to have that size. If a guy can throw and is accurate and carries himself and his team, that's the biggest part of being a quarterback. It's about being a leader and how you get your players to play with you and how hard they can go and how they respond to you."

Mayfield went to only two camps following his junior season of high school, Elite 11 and Nike qualifying camps, both in Dallas. He remembers Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo showing up at one of them, and the other thing he remembers is a lot of hype following a lot of guys who weren't nearly as good as he was.

"I went on back-to-back days, a Friday and Saturday, and saw all those guys who had offers from everywhere in the country and all the ESPN cameras right there where they were stationed," Mayfield said. "I'm thinking, 'I can throw better than them,' and we're right next to each other throwing and I'm not getting any recognition. So, yeah, there's been a chip on my shoulder that I formed, and it's gotten bigger ever since then.

"You can't define a quarterback by measuring him and watching him throw when nobody is trying to take his head off. There's a lot more to it than that, and a lot of the people doing the evaluating don't seem to get that."

Mayfield, who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting this season and wasn't invited to the ceremony in New York City. His Oklahoma teammates will tell you that he'll feed off that just like he has every other slight in his life.

"We love it when people doubt him because we know that means he's going to go out there and play that much better, that much tougher," Oklahoma center Ty Darlington said. "The thing with Baker is that he lives for those moments, and you see what he's meant to our team."

Mayfield has accounted for 42 touchdowns (35 passing, seven rushing). Even more amazing, he has turned the ball over only five times, all interceptions. He hasn't lost a fumble, which is even more impressive when you consider how much he has scrambled and extended plays this season.

"He only knows one way to play, and there's no holding him back," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. "The guys on the team picked up on that trait pretty early this spring. You want to play for a guy like that."

And Mayfield always wanted to play for Oklahoma. His family would make road trips to Norman to see the Sooners play when he was a kid. His father knew somebody on the staff at the time, but it wasn't enough of a connection for Oklahoma to show any serious interest in Mayfield out of high school.

"I don't hold that against them. Nobody wanted me," said Mayfield, offering a chuckle. "It all worked out in the end, and the fact that I had to earn everything just to get here makes it even more worthwhile."

Mayfield also has a message for quarterbacks going through the recruiting process now, not to mention those already in college who might be looking to transfer.

"It's going to be tough, no matter what, and there's going to be competition, no matter what," said Mayfield, who transferred to Oklahoma despite the Sooners having five scholarship quarterbacks on their roster at the time. "I didn't transfer based on competition. I transferred based on lack of a relationship (with Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury).

"So many guys transfer nowadays because they think there's too much competition at a place. I think they're overdoing it, but you're going to have to grind it out no matter where you are. When people are picking where they want to go to school, you have to feel out what's going to be the best opportunity for you and your future. That's why I came to Oklahoma. Kids need to look at that instead of who's blowing up their phones the most and who's making them the most promises and telling them what they want to hear."

Mayfield doesn't need to hear from anybody that he's legit. He has proved it and then some, and he plans on doing so for two more games this season.