They seemed like long shots to become good friends.
Grant Calcaterra was a wide-eyed freshman from Southern California, a former standout wide receiver at Santa Margarita Catholic High School who made the bold decision to sign a scholarship with Oklahoma, a perennial powerhouse in the world of college football.
Baker Mayfield was preparing for his third-year as the star quarterback for the Sooners. He was a senior from Austin, Texas who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting last season and is back in the hunt again.
It’s safe to say, nobody was more well-known on the 31,000-student campus than Mayfield.
But the 3 1/2-year age difference and even more gaping degree of popularity didn’t prevent Calcaterra and Mayfield from developing a strong friendship this summer and fall, a bond that was formed during early-morning passing sessions and late-afternoon workouts in the weight room.
“Football brings together lifelong friendships,” Mayfield told The Oklahoman. “I think Grant’s gonna be one of those guys for me.”
Mayfield is one of the most well-known names in college football because he’s been making headlines since 2013, when he was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year while playing for Texas A&M.
Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma the following year, sat out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules and has been the starting quarterback for Oklahoma ever since, leading the Sooners to a 28-5 record in his first 33 games.
Last season, Mayfield became the first Oklahoma quarterback to lead the Sooners to a 9-0 mark in Big 12 play. He averaged 305 passing yards a game, threw 40 touchdowns, set an FBS record for single-season pass efficiency rating and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in completion percentage and yards per attempt.
Because of Mayfield’s stature in college football, his presence may have caught some off guard when Calcaterra brought him home to Orange County during Oklahoma’s bye week in late September.
After all, why is a college freshman who mainly serves as back-up hosting the star quarterback 1,500 miles from campus?
Turned out, the invitation came from Calcaterra’s parents, Chris and Diane, who have become regulars at Oklahoma games this season.
“I talked to them and they said, ‘You should come out to California for the bye week,’” Mayfield said. “I said, ‘Don’t ask me twice. I’ll do it.’ So it actually happened.”
Calcaterra brought Mayfield to his favorite beaches. They attended an Anaheim Ducks preseason hockey game and even dropped by Santa Margarita for an on-field workout.
Calcaterra told The Oklahoman upon his return to Norman that it’s easy to get along with Mayfield, regardless of the age difference or stature. Calcaterra said he built similar relationships with his quarterbacks at Santa Margarita.
“You just connect on the field,” he said. “You can kind of build a relationship off the field with that.”
Calcaterra and Mayfield showed on-field chemistry right from the start.
Calcaterra caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield in the first game of the season, a 56-7 victory against Texas-El Paso.
Calcaterra has mainly spent his first season as the back-up tight end to Mark Andrews, who leads the Sooners in receiving and is expected to be a top 10 NFL draft pick this spring. Mayfield is expected to join Andrews as a first-rounder as well, likely becoming an instant millionaire in the process.
And that won’t change their friendship a bit.