All eyes on Mike Mitchell

Mitchell keeps a low profile in Texas, but he's coming up big at The Opening

Originally Published: July 7, 2012
By Damon Sayles | ESPN RecruitingNation

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Mike Mitchell may not have known it then, but his performance at Friday's SPARQ rating national championship at The Opening wasn't just for him.

He was representing the entire Lone Star State.

As the last participant in the SPARQ 40-yard dash, Mitchell needed a blazing time to take the national title. Not only did he produce a 4.39-second 40 time -- ridiculously fast for a 6-foot-4, 220-pound linebacker -- but he also set the national SPARQ rating record with a score of 154.47.

When the 40 time was announced, the Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian star was mobbed by The Opening players  many of them being Texans. Although Mitchell grew up in Winter Park, Fla., he's been in Texas for more than two years, long enough to earn the respect of his peers.

"We've got the best athlete in the country," Tennessee commit Kameron Miles (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) said of Mitchell. "It made me proud. That's Texas. He's Texas."

In the eyes of several players, the SPARQ trophy couldn't have gone to a better player. Mitchell's the high-profile prospect who is incredibly low key.

Want to get in touch with Mitchell? Good luck. There's a reason you don't hear daily updates on his recruiting status or notes about his upcoming visit schedule. He's too busy working out. His daily routine includes working out from 8 a.m. until noon -- consider the triple-digit temperatures in Texas -- and he may get in as many as six hours of workout time a day for six days a week. He rests on Sunday.

So when Mitchell, who's No. 144 in the ESPN 150 and the No. 13 outside linebacker, was mobbed after winning the SPARQ title, it was purely out of respect for the phenomenal athlete that he is.

"I enjoyed it so much, just because of all the great players I competed against," Mitchell said. "I competed against the best of the best, and everybody's worked hard to get where they're at. I've been working my butt off this summer, going to the track early in the morning and staying until noon. It's 103, 104 degrees around that time in Texas.

"I've been running consistent 4.4s, but when I heard [4.39], I dropped my water bottle. I walked around the back, hoping nobody would catch me. One player got me, and then I just got mauled."

A four-star linebacker, Mitchell is entertaining double-digit offers and has solid interest in Texas A&M, Ohio State and Florida State and lately he has added Georgia and Oregon to the mix. He said he is considering announcing his decision at Gridiron Kings, which takes place July 27-29 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Mitchell is one of those players who is relatively quiet until you put him on the football field. He's a "yes, sir," "no, sir" kid who lets his actions do most of his talking. Mitchell is coming off a junior season where he recorded 151 tackles, 11 sacks and two interceptions.

Miles and Texas commit Jake Oliver (Dallas/Jesuit) met Mitchell for the first time during the plane ride to Oregon earlier in the week. Oliver said he has known of Mitchell for a while, as some of his friends from Jesuit know some of his friends from Prestonwood.

Both Oliver and Miles had similar descriptions of Mitchell -- a quiet guy who also happens to be a freak of an athlete.

"For a linebacker, he's really athletic. He's a product of hard work," Miles said. "You can tell he works really hard. It shows."

"I called it, actually," Oliver said. "I was sitting next to [Texas commit] Jacorey [Warrick] and I said, 'He's going to run a 4.39,' and he did. I thought it was pretty cool."

Mitchell's performance even impressed Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy), who Mitchell has the utmost respect for. Seals-Jones, a five-star prospect and the country's top-ranked receiver, said the Texas natives were cheering for Mitchell and another Texan who made the SPARQ finals, Kansas commit Colin Spencer (Dallas/Woodrow Wilson).

"We were screaming, 'Texas is in here! Texas is here!'" Seals-Jones said. "When it got time for Mike to run, and when he ran that 4.39, we went crazy. People were jumping up and down and giving high-fives.

"We just wanted to encourage him. That was a big thing for him and the state of Texas. It showed that Texas is big, and we do big things."

Mitchell's athletic ability is genetic. His father Ken played middle linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. His mother Candy was a standout tennis player. Even his younger brother Mickey has the genes. Mickey is a 6-foot-7 point guard who is ranked No. 2 in the 2015 class.

"There's a lot of competition in my family," Mike said. "Everybody's athletic and competing. Mickey's a star basketball guy. I just felt like this was my time to shine."

And, in doing so, Mitchell became something of a Texas high school hero. At least to his peers at The Opening from Lone Star State.

"The state of Texas represented as well as we possibly could," Oliver said, "and he showed Texas is the best state for football."