The 2017 Heisman Experience Creates Lifelong Friendship Between Three Exceptional Players

The votes are in, the ballots all tabulated and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is the newest member of the Heisman House, receiving 86 percent of the total possible points, third highest of all-time. He is the sixth Oklahoma Sooner to win the Heisman and the first senior to win the award since Troy Smith in 2006.

Mayfield’s 732 first place votes is the fifth best in Heisman history. And to nobody’s surprise, he appeared on 91.17 percent of ballots. In fact, many tabbed him as the winner months ago.

And while Mayfield is the perfect totem for the gritty collegiate gridiron, it was the dynamic between all three finalists that truly stole the show. Mayfield and his fellow finalists, Stanford’s Bryce Love and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, became more than a significant part of college football history this past weekend in New York City – they became friends.

“Just getting to know those guys on a personal level because we all go through the same grind – its nice to get to know somebody off the field,” said Mayfield of the whole experience.

Both Mayfield and Jackson had been to the Heisman before, leaving Love as the lone newcomer. But the veterans were quick to offer up words of wisdom and encouragement to their new West Coast friend.

“I’m not an expert here, don’t get that confused,” Mayfield told the media, chuckling. “We talked about the schedule and how they keep us busy and I told him just try and enjoy it because no matter what it’s a special event, no matter who wins.”

Jackson echoed Mayfield’s sentiment and added one other piece of advice for Love, something he took to heart after winning the award last year and dealing with the recognition afterwards.

“Be humble.”

Hey, it works for Kendrick Lamar. And it was the very two words Jackson’s mother told him after winning the Heisman last year. It’s a simple message but tough to adhere to when struck with the kind of fame and notoriety that comes with being nominated for such a prestigious award.

Another thing Jackson warned Love about – signing lots of autographs and taking copious amounts of pictures with fans.

But Love took it all in stride, being the poised kind of person, and player, he is. And he also had kind words for his fellow nominees.

“They’ve been playing amazing,” Love said. “They’ve obviously done so many amazing things – Lamar having almost 5,000 all-purpose yards, something crazy like that and Baker only throwing two picks and 40-something touchdowns. I mean its truly incredible, just to be here with them and be in that presence and in that same conversation – its really a blessing and an honor, truly.”

Respect was clear among the three talented collegiate athletes but something else emerged whenever the three were interacting, a simpler, purer emotion: camaraderie.

Like when, prior to the ceremony, the guys joked about their outfits, claiming Jackson upstaged them.

“I feel like I can’t even touch Lamar right now – he’s so clean, I can’t touch him,” Love exclaimed of Jackson’s all-white Kentucky Derby-esque suite.

The bond became even clearer when Mayfield was asked after the ceremony what Jackson said to him right after he won.

“He tried to tell me not to cry before, I looked at him and said ‘Are you serious?’” recalled Mayfield, laughing. “I love Lamar. Between him and Bryce, those are good people. It’s kind of like being up there on stage with the past winners – genuine guys and it’s a pleasure to be around them, it’s a blessing. It’s been fun to be around Lamar these past couple of years and it’s a friendship that’s going to be probably for a lifetime.”

Predictable outcome aside, watching the interactions between this year’s special candidates restored my faith in college football – a faith that had grown dim during the coaching carousel and playoff spot fight.

Mayfield will go off to do battle against a feisty Georgia squad in the Rose Bowl. Love, who finished second in the Heisman voting, confirmed he will be playing with Stanford in the Alamo Bowl against TCU. And Jackson will be heading to his home state to face Mississippi State in the Tax Slayer Bowl.

But they will all meet again, on the field or off.

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