Before the 1,279 passing yards, before the 14 touchdowns, before the 125 combined points, Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes sat in a Lubbock, Texas apartment, playing video games and hanging out with other Texas Tech quarterbacks and wide receivers.
It was October 12th, 2013 — three years before Mayfield and Mahomes would light the college football world on fire in the 2016 game between Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Back then, Mayfield was a freshman walk-on with the Red Raiders and Mahomes, a high school senior, was still weighing his options for college.
That evening, Mahomes was a visitor in Lubbock, hosted by Mayfield and fellow Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb.
Mayfield and Mahomes had no way of knowing then that they’d eventually combine for an NCAA-record breaking game in 2016 and later each be selected in the top 10 of their respective NFL Drafts. And they certainly didn’t know that they’d be facing off in Cleveland this weekend as first-year starters for their respective NFL teams.
But that early meeting laid a foundation of friendship and respect between the two quarterbacks. And they continue to improbably cross paths even five years later.
On that particular weekend in 2013, the Red Raiders were undefeated. Mahomes watched as Texas Tech outpaced Iowa State 42-35 to retain that unblemished record. Later, he went out to dinner with the rest of visitors and their hosts to Las Brisas, an upscale steakhouse in Lubbock.
But the most valuable part of that weekend was the hours spent with Mayfield and the other quarterbacks at Webb’s apartment.
“We’ll just try to introduce them to as many guys on the team as we can and let them get familiar with a lot of guys and build a lot of those relationships so that when they get there in summer, they’re ready and it’s not all new to them,” said Dylan Cantrell, then a freshman receiver and former high school teammate with Mahomes who’s now on the L.A. Chargers’ practice squad. “That’s the biggest thing, just coming from high school, you don’t know a lot of people. The faster you can start building those relationships, the better.”
The group, which also included tight end Jace Amaro and wide receiver Brad Marquez, played video games, battling in the latest editions of Madden NFL and NBA 2K. Amaro spent training camp with the Chiefs this summer, while Marquez was waived by the Lions.
“(Mahomes) didn’t win either of those (games),” Webb said, laughing. “So I’ll take those W’s. I think once he got to Texas Tech, it was pretty even. He started getting better.”
Even then, Mayfield recognized that Mahomes had the makings of a successful quarterback and leader.
“Patrick has always been an easygoing guy,” Mayfield said, remembering his first impression of Mahomes on that trip. “That is why those teammates he has always had play for him so hard. He gets their respect not just based on talent — that’s easy to respect — but based on who he is as a person. He just has that presence about him that you want to be around. You gravitate towards that, so it’s fun to see him grow.”
The two seemed to be the same path after Mahomes’ visit — perhaps a battle for the Red Raiders’ starting quarterback job was in their future — until Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma seventh months before Mahomes arrived.
But then, of course, they were set for a collision course when they came back together for the high-output 2016 game between Tech and OU.
It was Mayfield’s first trip back to Lubbock as OU’s starting quarterback, while Mahomes was in his final year as the Red Raiders’ starter.
Together, the two helped their teams’ break the NCAA record for combined yards in a single game: 1,708. Mahomes threw for five touchdowns and rushed for another two. Mayfield threw for seven. OU won, 66-59.
“It was a basketball score,” Mayfield said. “Looking back on it, Pat had I think 800-plus total yards, and they were 20 of 25 on third down.
“That was my ‘Welcome back to Lubbock’ moment. Weird things happen in Lubbock, Texas on Saturday nights.”
As magnetic as Mayfield and Mahomes are at attracting people, their gravitational pull seems strongest toward each other. One can’t go far without reeling the other one back in.
From a relationship that began on a recruiting trip, to an epic college football game, now the next installment of their friendly rivalry will take place on Sunday when the two square off at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium.
The two first-year starters from Texas, both underrated coming out of high school with a handful of Division-I offers between them, could represent the next wave in quarterback rivalries.
They don’t command the gravitas of the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning duels yet, but if history serves as any indication, their future meetings could rise to that level.
“Baker had one offer maybe and Pat had one or two,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “and to be in the state of Texas that’s hotly recruited and slide under the radar like they both did to end up at the same school, a year apart, they end up playing against each other in an epic game, it is kind of like the stars aligned a bit with their careers.
“They’ll be playing against each other for a long time.”