FRISCO, Texas -- Baker Mayfield was sorry, and his teammates knew he meant it. They saw the contrition in his eyes and the seriousness in his voice.
After having too much to drink, Mayfield ran away from police and got slammed rib-first into a concrete wall, an embarrassing incident in February for the leader of the Oklahoma football team. Judging by the high-speed tackle from police, he was fortunate to escape the incident without injury, too.
After apologizing to teammates following the arrest, he had one last message.
"Let's put this behind us and go work hard," Mayfield told the Sooners in the team's meeting room. "Let's go win a natty."
With that, his fate was in the hands of Oklahoma's "leadership council," a small group of leaders who govern the team, help solve disputes and, yes, decide punishments when appropriate. The group began after the Sooners' embarrassing 40-6 bowl loss to Clemson at the end of the 2014 season.
Mayfield had explained his side of the incident, and it was up to them and their mock court to decide his punishment.
"That was a big deal, but we can't just kill him," linebacker Obo Okoronkwo said at Big 12 media days in July. "It's Baker and it's going to be a bigger deal because it's Baker. And he hadn't done anything before that deal. From person to person, you handle it differently. He's not a guy who's always doing stuff to get in trouble, so as the leadership, we talked about what was appropriate. It's monitored by players and not the coaching staff."
They landed on 35 hours of community service -- including work with law enforcement -- and an alcohol education program, all to be completed before the fall semester began. Mayfield finished it by working with Meals on Wheels and the Special Olympics, spending time with veterans and teaching bike safety to kids. The punishment is behind him, and like he told the team, the incident is, too.
Now, Oklahoma's chase for an elusive eighth national title can begin, along with Mayfield's chase for a Heisman Trophy.
America got its first look at the animated, accurate, polarizing passer way back in 2013 when he became the first player in FBS history to start a season opener as a walk-on true freshman, at Texas Tech. In that debut, he threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in a win over SMU.
Months later, he was gone, burning his ex-coach Kliff Kingsbury in the process. Mayfield's father called Kingsbury a "scoundrel" for his efforts to block his son's transfer to Oklahoma, and Mayfield publicly criticized Kingsbury's handling of a complicated quarterback situation that left Mayfield as a backup.
Four years later, Mayfield is getting the last laugh. He regained the year of eligibility he initially traded in to transfer thanks to a Big 12 rule change last summer, making 2017 his last go-around. Last December, he played his way to New York City as a Heisman finalist. In 2015, he carried the Sooners to the College Football Playoff and finished fourth in Heisman voting.
For even casual fans, he's been a household name longer than 99 percent of players who put on a college football uniform.
"I don't feel like the old man," Mayfield said, "but everybody seems to call me the old man."
While Mayfield's February arrest came as a surprise, he's also not a stranger to Oklahoma's party scene. It's a part of his persona teammates consider an asset to his leadership ability, but it quickly crosses over into detriment when it produces embarrassing headlines.
"It's been a change in perspective for me in life in general," Mayfield said. "I've been able to step back and be thankful for everything I have. It's been a blessing in disguise for me. It was tough to go through that, I had criticism and all that, but I've been able to make a difference and have positive change from it."
Entering the fall, new coach Lincoln Riley has no new restrictions or rules for the 22-year-old Mayfield's life away from the field.
"I trust him," Riley said. "He's grown from it. He's matured. He's got a good understanding of, 'Ninety-nine percent of what I do and who I am is good. I've made one mistake I've got to learn from. I understand the repercussions of it.'"
As preseason camp begins, Mayfield's gotten down to the business of focusing on eliminating his mistakes on the field.
"If I'd done everything right and didn't have anything to work for, I'd have two national titles," Mayfield said. "But I don't."
He's built a career on a pile of slights. He didn't have a Power Five offer after high school. An injury cost him his starting job at Texas Tech. When he went to Oklahoma, Trevor Knight was the Sugar Bowl hero, and Mayfield had to work his way up the depth chart.
This year, he's the Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year quarterbacking the conference's preseason favorite. His fuel supply -- disrespect, perceived or real -- is shorter than ever, leaving Mayfield to focus on chasing the things he's left undone and pursue a trip to the national championship game.
"My expectation is to play in Atlanta at the end of the year," Mayfield said. "That's my goal, but that's also my expectation. I've lost four games as a starter at Oklahoma. I've thrown too many interceptions. I can improve my completion percentage. I can push my team better and we can finish better in the end."
That task will be more difficult this fall. Star running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine are in the NFL. So is his top target, Dede Westbrook. His leading returning wide receiver, Nick Basquine, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Friday. Now, he'll have to lean on targets like unproven senior Jeffrey Mead and Kentucky transfer Jeff Badet.
"Adjusting to them and adapting and getting the best out of them, I think that's been a big thing for me," Mayfield said. "You can talk about the physical side of playing quarterback and making throws, but if I don't know how I need to throw to this guy, and how he does best, then none of that matters."
Mayfield has been one of college football's most entertaining talents for every season we've seen him on the field.
A 70-yard touchdown throw is almost always punctuated by a sprint downfield to celebrate with his receiver. He'll jump into his offensive linemen's arms. If you see him score in your home stadium, prepare to be shushed. He'll pump his fists for a big completion or rip off his helmet in displeasure at a crushing interception. He produced a now-legendary GIF before he'd played a down at Oklahoma. He was recently elected the Big 12's biggest trash talker, and that was after a feisty tweet in January. He doesn't shy away from taking a hit, even if it comes at the cost of his health. His ability to extend plays with shifty feet and 360-degree vision in the pocket is rare. He'll serve as his back's lead blocker in a rivalry game.
Every time he puts on the pads, Mayfield puts on a show.
Off the field? Mayfield and his coach, Riley, would both be well-served if one word best describes the fall: boring.