Stephen F. Austin defensive back coach Mitch White called Bruce Mitchell eight times the day before the Lumberjacks’ summer camp to make sure Mitchell would be there to compete.
SFA’s pursuit of the Frisco Lone Star defensive back was in full motion, and Mitchell recognized they were turning up the intensity. The Lumberjacks recruiting process up to that point had been slower than the other schools recruiting Mitchell. They weren’t offering guys unless they were really impressed with them. As of today, SFA has only offered 11 players in the 2023 cycle.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 182-pound prospect assured White he’d be in attendance. Then, he proceeded to dominate the camp. He earned the coveted offer on June 2, and he committed on July 26.
SFA’s methodical approach to the recruitment assured Mitchell they were going to give him a chance to play early on in his career. The Lumberjacks have seven upperclassmen defensive backs on the 2022 roster, giving Mitchell the opportunity to compete for a starting spot as a freshman.
“I want to be different,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to do something that not a lot of guys do, which is play ball at the FCS level. Then I wanted the opportunity to play early. I think playing freshman year will be a fast track to the NFL.”
Not only will he be a defensive contributor the moment he steps on campus, he’ll do so at three different positions. Mitchell says SFA told him he will line up at his natural home at cornerback, but will also patrol the field as a safety and nickelback.
Mitchell is used to playing multiple positions. Despite earning District 5-5A DI First-Team honors as a cornerback at Frisco Lone Star in 2021, he will line up at all three positions during his senior season this upcoming fall.
While the likelihood of early playing time was a major factor in Mitchell’s recruitment, the selling point for SFA was the culture head coach Colby Carthel is building. When Mitchell went to the camp in June, all of the coaches and all of the players already knew who he was by name and made him feel a part of the team already.
“To me, they’re truly building a family and that was really the No.1 thing about this whole process for me,” Mitchell said. “Who really is building that family that I have right now at my high school?”
SFA’s welcoming vibe closely resembles Lone Star’s culture for Mitchell. He played his first two seasons of high school football at Dallas Parish Episcopal, but after winning the TAPPS DI championship as a sophomore, Mitchell decided to transfer to Lone Star after a move to Frisco lengthened his commute to the private school.
Mitchell says Lone Star head coach Jeff Rayburn immediately welcomed him into the Lone Star family when he first arrived on campus in the spring of 2021.
“The first thing Coach Rayburn told me when I got there was, ‘Anyone who wants to play is going to get an opportunity to play here,’” Mitchell said. “So when I got here they accepted me into their family. I’m nothing but grateful to them for that.”
Mitchell proved he did want to play. He became a student of the game, pouring over film and learning from the coaching staff for the first time how to truly evaluate it before honing his coverage technique on the field.
He teamed up with fellow cornerback and Arkansas commit Jaylon Braxton to power a defense that gave up just 18 points per game as Lone Star went 9–3.
But Lone Star has a lot of star power to replace this upcoming year. While the Rangers still have Mitchell and Braxton for another season, they must replace three Division I players. Last year’s district MVP, running back Ashton Jeanty, is off to Boise State. The district offensive MVP, quarterback Garrett Rangel, is at Oklahoma State, and first team safety Devin Turner will suit up for Northwestern.
Nevertheless, Mitchell is confident that after Lone Star’s season opening game at AT&T Stadium against Texas High the doubts will cease. The Rangers have 40 returning lettermen, including last year’s backup quarterback in Gabriel Barrientes who earned second team honors for his play in place of an injured Rangel. On defense, Mitchell says Lone Star has a chance to be even better than last year bringing back two key playmakers on what he calls the best secondary in 5A.
“We live by the next man up mentality,” Mitchell said. “We’re expecting to go pretty far this year. I think y’all are going to see after we play this first game, I think a lot of people are going to give us respect for what we’re going to do this year. All we did was just reload.”
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