Believe it or not, a fresh-faced Baker Mayfield once aspired to be like Garrett Gilbert — who currently serves as his backup with the Cleveland Browns.
Both Mayfield and Gilbert attended Lake Travis High School and the quarterbacks are four years apart — Mayfield is 24, while Gilbert is 28.
While Mayfield’s time would come, Gilbert was a highly touted five-star prospect that the future Hesiman winner looked up to, as ESPN’s Jake Trotter profiled in his latest piece with some hilarious tidbits.
Premier among those are Mayfield’s nickname, the “fat 12-year-old,” which still holds to this day.
“He had to toughen up to come up [with us] a little bit,” Gilbert told Trotter. “But he was always a competitor. He stuck his nose in there and he’d hop right back up.”
Mayfield had high praise for Gilbert as well.
“I’ve always looked up to Garrett,” said Mayfield. “It’s so surreal to have him on the same team.”
Garrett Gilbert Making an Impact With Browns
Gilbert is a journeyman in the NFL, but recently made a name for himself in the now-defunct AAF. Gilbert was 157-of-259 for 2,152 yards with 13 touchdowns with the Orlando Apollos.
The Browns are Gilbert’s sixth team, but he has a chance to stick around in Cleveland with his old buddy Baker if he keeps up his top-notch play. Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens wanted to see what Gilbert had and gave him the starting nod in the Browns second preseason game.
In one half of action he was 13-of-19 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Gilbert is currently in a competition with veteran Drew Stanton for the backup job.
Despite the strong performance, Kitchens wasn’t ready to hand over the backup job to Gilbert just yet when he spoke to reporters after the game.
“Drew is our backup quarterback,” Kitchens said. “Drew brings a lot of value to our team, so he’s our backup quarterback.”
Gilbert isn’t sweating the competition on the depth chart.
“It’s all about improving every day, and from there, the chips will fall,” Gilbert said. “If I worry about that and control what I can, everything will take care of itself.”
Baker Mayfield in the MVP Conversation With Browns
In just 13 starts last season, Mayfield passed for a rookie record 27 touchdowns. He collected 3,725 passing yards and helped the Browns finish 7-8-1, winning five of their final seven games.
Some have even inserted Mayfield in the conversation for MVP, like NFL.com’s Adam Schein, who has the Browns QB in his top three contenders.
“Mayfield won’t fail. He can’t fail. He has the talent, moxie, work ethic, accuracy and leadership skills to push the Browns to the playoffs,” Schein wrote of Mayfield.
The Browns are seeking to break a 16-season playoff drought and are favored to win their first AFC North banner since the 1989 season.
“Mayfield will get extra credit for driving Cleveland to an AFC North title, fighting against both a tough group of division rivals and the Browns’ long, established history of dreadful, misguided ineptitude,” Schein wrote defending the pick.
The Browns next preseason game is on Aug. 23 in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers. The game is usually used as a dress rehearsal, but Kitchens has noted he’s not necessarily following protocol when it comes to the norms of preseason.
“I look at it as part of the process of getting ready for the season,” Kitchens said on Sunday. “I’m not sold on the dress rehearsal thing. I just look at it as another opportunity to try to get better.”