NEW YORK -- For years, there was only one place where Saturday night's triumphant story had been written: inside Baker Mayfield's head.
He knew no one else was entertaining that fantasy.
"Did you expect me to be here when you talked to me [back then]?" the Austin, Texas, native asked Friday, joking during a media session with a sportswriter who covered him in high school.
Like most of those who had heard at that point of the sub-6-foot quarterback with no major college offers, the reporter sheepishly admitted: "I gotta be honest, no."
What once seemed improbable for Mayfield has now become reality. The Sooners quarterback is the latest winner of college football's highest honor, the Heisman Trophy. And as much as he might have wanted this, even he couldn't have predicted what winning the award would actually be like.
"It's a dream right now," Mayfield said.
With 2,398 total points and 732 first-place votes, Mayfield, who walked on at Oklahoma -- after spending a year as a walk-on at Texas Tech -- won the trophy Saturday night, one year after attending the trophy presentation as a finalist.
The Sooners signal-caller had the third-highest percentage of total points in a Heisman-winning vote since 1950. His 86 percent trailed only Marcus Mariota's 90.9 percent (Oregon, 2014) and Troy Smith's 91.6 percent (Ohio State, 2006).
Mayfield led No. 2 Oklahoma to a 12-1 record and a Big 12 championship this season. On Jan. 1, the Sooners will take on Georgia in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual as part of the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff.
"All he wanted was a chance," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "All he wanted was a chance to be the starting quarterback [in high school]. All he wanted was a chance to be the starting quarterback at Texas Tech, Oklahoma and to earn scholarships. When he's had those chances in his life, he's proven himself."
Mayfield is the first player to win the Heisman after walking on to a team. The NCAA didn't recognize the walk-on concept until 1950.
During his acceptance speech, Mayfield thanked the other finalists and his teammates, coaches and trainers before tearfully crediting his family for their guidance.
"My family, love you guys," Mayfield said, pausing as tears left his eyes. "There were times that we had to move, and you guys made sacrifice after sacrifice just so I could chase my dreams.
"I wouldn't be here without you. Love you."
Mayfield's story will go down as one of the most unique among Heisman winners. From looking back at various events in his life, it seemed unlikely that he would ever end up experiencing this moment.
Not only was Mayfield a two-time walk-on, but he was also an undersized recruit coming out of talent-rich Texas. Even when he did get his opportunity to play at Oklahoma, he had to fight hard for the starting job. Two years after that, his character became a question.
In February, Mayfield was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing. Twice this season, he drew the ire of opponents. At Ohio State in September, he planted an Oklahoma flag in the turf at Ohio Stadium immediately following a road victory over the ranked Buckeyes. Last month, cameras caught Mayfield shouting profanities and making obscene gestures toward Kansas players.
After each controversy, he apologized.
Mayfield closed his Heisman speech by imploring children to never give up on their dreams. When later asked what message his ups and downs might send to those same kids, he hearkened back to what inspired him throughout his journey.
"You've got to be self-confident," Mayfield said. "With social media and all sorts of things in today's day and age, there's a lot of negativity, and there's something to be said about having good-old confidence in yourself and having a true belief.
"It's about facing adversity, embracing mistakes and being upfront about it and moving forward and being better in the future."
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione credited Mayfield for working on bettering his perception while also proving how a person can make what once seemed improbable possible.
"Regardless of what anyone chooses to do in their life, this is an inspirational story," Castiglione said. "I really do believe it's a simple yet powerful, inspiring story for an aspiring athlete, musician, dancer, anyone in life to think about what opportunities they have, the naysayers they may face, the constant pervasive rhetoric around what you can't do, and yet you can find a way to bring strength to what you can."