QB Mitchell signs with SJ alum Simpson at UT Martin
John Mitchell followed his heart. And it carried him to UT-Martin.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound multi-talented South Jones quarterback signed a letter of intent to play for the Skyhawks as teammates and well-wishers looked on in the school’s media center on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.
“They were my first D-I offer,” Mitchell said of why he decided to sign with the Tennessee team. “They were there at the end of my junior year and they stayed in contact. When I went there, it felt like home.”
Mitchell had first committed to Pearl River Community College to play baseball, but this season on the gridiron reminded him of what his true love is.
“Football is the way I wanted to go,” Mitchell said. “I love football. If I had to take one out, it would be baseball.”
The man who signed Mitchell could relate to the two-sport decision Mitchell was facing. UT-Martin coach Jason Simpson is from Ellisville and a South Jones graduate. He signed with Mississippi State and played two seasons for the Bulldogs as a quarterback while also playing baseball for Ron Polk before transferring to the University of Southern Mississippi in 1992 and becoming an all-conference pick in baseball.
Mitchell brought productivity and versatility to the Braves, first-year head coach Roger Satcher said. In his career, he racked up more than 6,000 yards, 402 points “and scored touchdowns rushing, passing and receiving,” Satcher said. And in crucial points in games, “when the chips were down,” Mitchell was put in at safety or outside linebacker to help out the defense.
Satcher recalled one time this season when he called Mitchell to the sideline and “told him to take over,” and he delivered. “He went out and ran over people.”
“He has shown leadership through some really good years,” Satcher said, “and while doing that, he has been one of the top students. That’s very difficult, especially when you’re playing two or three sports. “That translates to home,” Satcher said, complimenting his parents, Lee and Terri.
Principal B.R. Jones had to be away, but he offered a message via video, saying how impressed he is with Mitchell’s work ethic and overall citizenship. He also noted the leadership Mitchell showed when he took the reins of a new offense under first-year head coach Satcher for his senior season.
“He helped take us to heights no one expected,” Jones said. His abilities are attributable to his dad, “who’s a real go-getter” and his mother, “who is the consummate team player,” Jones said. “He got the best of both of them.”
The town of Martin is almost a six-hour drive away and the Skyhawks play in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I liked the coaches, the players, the facilities … it just felt like home,” Mitchell said of his decision.
He is expected to play quarterback, and he is excited about doing that on the next level.
“We’re going to run the spread, a lot of run-pass option,” Mitchell said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Mitchell was tops on his team in both categories, completing 65 of 149 passes for 918 yards, seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and he ran for 1,077 yards and 11 TDs on 181 carries. He produced 51 percent of the total offense for the Braves, who finished 6-6 in a season when expectation were low.
The Skyhawks were nationally ranked in the Top 25 last season for the first time since 2013, going as high as 18th in the Football Championship Subdivision polls. They finished 6-5. Simpson is the longest-tenured coach in the conference, going on his 13th season.
Laurel High standout Charles Cross also signed on Wednesday. The offensive lineman inked a letter of intent with Mississippi State after first committing to Florida State. Look for his story in Saturday’s edition.