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Mitchell brings the Horsepower for Medina

Photo by Chad Kroening

About seven years ago, Medina head football coach Eric Valley spotted a couple of very large youngsters walking down the sidewalk together on the school grounds.

“Oh, those must be eighth- or ninth-graders,” Valley thought.

He was off by a few years. Those two big boys were actually in the fifth grade at the time. Roosevelt Mitchell and Xavier King had recently moved into the district, and they certainly caught the eye of the veteran football coach.

“I’d heard they were really strong and big kids,” Valley recalled recently in his office at Medina. “You never know. Some big kids in fifth or sixth grade stay the same size their whole lives. Luckily, they kept growing.”

Yes, Mitchell and King kept growing, and Valley said he’s blessed to have them. They’re now seniors and towering fixtures on the offensive line for a Mustangs team that’s off to a 5-0 start in Class C, averaging 38.7 points a game.

Mitchell stands 6-3, 315 pounds, and is the kingpin — not to mention the Homecoming King — on Valley’s offensive line. Mitchell is committed to play college football next season at Akron in the Mid-American Conference.

It’s rare for Medina to send a player to the Division I FBS level of the college game. Mitchell was good enough to attract interests from schools in the so-called Power Five, including Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and Boston College.

Mitchell said UB, which competes with Akron in the MAC, showed interest, but it “didn’t feel like a match” and was a little too close to home.

Actually, Akron felt like home to Mitchell, who struck up an immediate bond with the Zips’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator, Joel Rodriguez.

“I liked his energy, his personality,” Mitchell said. “It was immaculate. I’m not going to lie. When I got there, I felt a roaring bust of energy. It was crazy. I felt like I was home. I felt wanted and all that.”

Mitchell, who is 17, said he expects to be redshirted as a freshman at Akron. He has no illusions about his readiness for the FBS level. He knows from experience how much work is required to master offensive line play.

“I definitely was bad at first,” said Mitchell, the son of Roosevelt Mitchell and Shanette Warren. “I was always bigger and stronger than other people. But I got humbled on JV. That made me realize I have to grind if I want to make it to college, to DI.”

Valley said Mitchell has built his strength through the in-season weightlifting regimen that is mandatory for Medina athletes. Mitchell plays basketball (they call him Baby Shaq) and throws the shot and discus for the track squad.

“He went to a lot of clinics,” said Valley, whose team won two Class C sectional titles in the 2021 calendar year. “He went to a lot of colleges this past spring and summer. It was his first time standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other DI potential, which I think opened his eyes.

“I think it helped him grow from the perspective of, ‘Hey, I’m not going to be the big guy for the rest of my life.’ He’s well aware that he needs to continue to push and grow. I think he’s got the temperament and the attitude to go far.

“We’re not playing against a lot of other Division I talent here in the Cs, so he’s not getting a lot of exposure to kids like that,” Valley said. “So it’s definitely going to be a year or two adjustment for him. So it’s going to see how quickly he can adjust to the speed of the game at that level.”

Mitchell knows he’s a long way from his peak. He has considerable upside, which is what the Akron coaches told him when they recruited him.

“They loved my film,” said Mitchell, who also plays defensive tackle. “I move amazing. I’m a perfect fit for their offense.”

Akron plans to play Mitchell at center and guard, where he can use his speed to pull and lead his running backs to the edges.

“He moves very, very well for a big kid,” Valley said. “He really does. There’s times we pull him around and he’ll be leading 20 yards downfield with the tailback still behind him.”

Mitchell has dreams of playing in the NFL. He didn’t think he needed to play at a major school to attract pro scouts. He knows the MAC has sent a lot of players to the league. He knows about Khalil Mack’s legend at UB.

Of course, he’s still a big kid at heart. He’s also a leader and one of the most popular kids at school. Last Friday, he walked to the center of the field as Homecoming King at halftime of Medina’s 63-0 rout over Barker/Roy-Hart.

He’s not your stereotypical jock, either. Mitchell, a B student, has been in chorus since fifth grade and he’s in the a capella group, which helped his cause for Homecoming King. He stops to give high fives and encouragement to the little kids who look up to him at football games. His lone regret about the Homecoming ceremony was he didn't get to wear a crown.

“I’m a people pleaser,” he said. “Everybody loves me here.”

Medina folks love their high school teams. When the football squad won the sectional title in May of 2021, the team was escorted back to the village by a convoy of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars.

That fall, the Mustangs set a school record with 11 wins and won another C sectional title, but suffered a painful, two-point loss to East Rochester/Gananda in the Far West Regional. Medina is still looking for its first trip to the state semifinals.

Mitchell believes the 2021 team had more overall experience and talent, but this year’s squad is peaking. Going all the way to states is the ultimate goal.

“Yes definitely,” he said. “I want to get a championship before I leave here. I need at least one before I leave here. I need to leave my legacy.”

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