MOBILE, Ala. — Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen are getting plenty of looks from the pros this week.
Mayfield, college football’s top player, and Allen, a potential No. 1 overall draft pick, are competing at the Senior Bowl’s North practices in front of NFL coaches, scouts and executives.
“Hopefully we can come out and compete and push each other these next four or five days,” Allen, a Wyoming quarterback, said before Tuesday’s first practice.
They hadn’t actually met before that afternoon since Mayfield was a late arrival. He had flown home to Austin, Texas to be with his mother, who he said is “not doing too great.”
Scheduled to arrive Sunday, the Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner got to Mobile about two hours before the start of practice, missing media day and the official weigh-in. The playbook was emailed to the Heisman Trophy winner so he could study it before arriving.
Mayfield knows he’ll have to answer questions from NFL teams about behavior during a college career that left Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley calling him one of the best collegiate quarterbacks ever.
He said the most important thing this week is to show “the type of guy I am.”
“Everybody wants to portray the bad boy, the Johnny Manziel stuff,” Mayfield said. “But I love the game of football, there’s no doubt about that. I’m an emotional player. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I love being around my teammates and I love leading them, having the responsibility.”
Decorated on the field, Mayfield did have some non-playing issues.
He reached a plea deal after an arrest on public intoxication charges during the last offseason. Mayfield also drew criticism for planting a flag on the field after a victory over Ohio State and making an obscene gesture toward opponents during a lopsided victory at Kansas.
Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said NFL teams wanted to see him do things like work out of a huddle and go under center.
“And then off the field for Baker, we all have a perception of what he’s like through the media in this past year so now he gets a chance to address and really tackle who he is as a person, what he represents, how he will fit into a locker room,” said Savage, a former NFL general manager.
As for Allen, Savage said, “everyone knows he’s got the arm talent. They want to see the accuracy on the field and then get to know him better off the field.”
Allen is widely considered one of the candidates for No. 1 overall pick, along with other quarterbacks such as USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. He has the measurables, coming in at a shade under 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds at Tuesday’s weigh-in.
Allen opted to return for the 2017 season partly with the advice of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who played in the same offense under current Wyoming coach Craig Bohl at North Dakota State before also competing in the Senior Bowl.
Wentz’s counsel was that “you’re stepping into a locker room with 30-year-old guys and if you’re not mentally, ready it’s just going to eat you alive.”
Allen decided he wasn’t ready but feels he is now as a fourth-year junior. He said he wanted to graduate early in part so he’d be eligible for the Senior Bowl, knowing that NFL types would value seeing him compete against more elite competition.
Allen’s numbers dipped as a fourth-year junior after many of Wyoming’s other offensive playmakers left. He completed a modest 56.3 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns with six interceptions.
That left him wanting to prove that he’s “way more accurate than that shows.”
His big goal for the week, he said: “Prove that I can belong.”
“There’s a lot of skepticism about what type of player I am and where I come from at the University of Wyoming,” Allen said. “Getting out here, playing with the best of the best and showing that I can make all the throws and understand offenses in the NFL. That’s the main reason I’m here.”
Allen is promising enough that Denver Broncos executive and Hall of Famer John Elway took in his bowl game, a big deal even for a guy who’s drawn so much interest from NFL teams. The Broncos coaching staff is leading the North team this week.
“You kind of try to not treat it as a distraction,” Allen said. “When you look over and see a guy like John Elway on the sideline, it’s hard not to get excited.”
Likewise, the Broncos requested that Mayfield be on the North team.
“If John Elway asks you to be on his team, you don’t say no,” he said.