Photo: Ken Blaze, USA TODAY Sports
It's certainly been a memorable week for Baker Mayfield.
The Cleveland Browns quarterback began it with the best performance of his rookie season in a 28-16 win over the favored Atlanta Falcons, then followed up by perhaps giving his new community an even bigger victory.
Hope is certainly blossoming anew in Northeast Ohio, where Mayfield has led the Browns to their most victories (3) since 2015 with six games still to go as the club enters its bye week after snapping a four-game skid.
"Absolutely," Mayfield told USA TODAY Sports when asked if he and his talented young teammates were taking ownership of a franchise mired in the league's longest playoff drought (16 years).
"That's the positive thing about it — we're just getting started."
Mayfield threw a season-high three touchdown passes against Atlanta while posting a personal best passer rating of 151.2 after completing 17 of 20 passes for 216 yards.
His exuberance was captured by NFL Films. He seemed most excited about handing off to fellow rookie Nick Chubb, whose franchise-record 92-yard touchdown run put the Falcons on ice.
"Looking forward," Mayfield said, "I think it's gonna be a bright future. Just gotta be able to have that mentality to never get too down on things but always gotta work."
Despite his somewhat checkered reputation coming out of Oklahoma, the cameras also captured Mayfield's selfless spirit Sunday, when he chased down Atlanta's Vic Beasley between plays to return the mouthpiece the pass rusher had lost on the field.
Yet the quarterback's generosity was expressed in far greater terms this week when he launched a partnership with Barstool Sports to sell Mayfield paraphernalia — notably T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring outlines of his signature five o'clock shadow, eye black and bandana — with 100 percent of the proceeds ticketed for the Special Olympics in the greater Cleveland area.
"That is my new home, and that is why," Mayfield said of the initiative, which also fuels his ongoing desire to help children in need.
"It comes from my love and passion to try and inspire kids and inspire others, and then also the love for competing. So, for me, there's no better cause than Special Olympics," he added. "Those are people that have not been given the best cards, but they find a way to appreciate everything, find the happiness in all the little things."
And it's not a novelty for Mayfield, who frequently worked with kids and special needs groups while at OU.
"I think it comes from how I was, remembering how I was when I was little — looking up to athletes and looking up to their platform — and, at the time, not realizing they're just normal people.
"I think it's a great example to inspire others to never give up — if they want something bad enough, to put your mind on it, and go do it, go fight for it, believe in it. That's where that comes from — it's remembering who I was when I was little, and how my mind worked.
"And now being so blessed to be in this position to be able to give back and be able to inspire others. I can't ask for much more than that, to be able to inspire the future."
The No. 1 overall pick of this year's draft, Mayfield is also thrilled to return the favor to a title-starved region — the Browns have never reached the Super Bowl — that has quickly embraced him.
"Obviously the football hasn't been great in recent years. But the people love it, and they still support you no matter what," Mayfield said. "I've gotten a warm welcome with open arms. Truly, it's been unbelievable.
"It's a football town, they love watching and supporting, and so what can I do to give back to them off the field — the more important stuff?
"Until you've been here year-round in Cleveland, you truly don't understand why people that are from here and have lived here are so proud of it."
As the wins and mutual love begin to grow, Mayfield seems to be getting a pretty good feel for his new surroundings.