Photo/James Pugh

John Mitchell is glad the day finally came, along with feelings of relief that it’s finally over. 

“It’s just one of those things,” said Mitchell at his signing Wednesday morning at South Jones High School’s Media Center. “Athletes want to get recruited until it finally happens. It’s hard honestly, especially with all the choices you got to make. It’s not the coaches you say yes too, it’s the coaches you say no. It makes things difficult. ”

Mitchell ended the recruiting process over him by signing with The University of Tennessee Martin on Wednesday, taking full advantage of the early signing period provided by the NCAA. Despite having the option to graduate early, Mitchell plans to remain at South Jones till May and play his senior year of baseball. Before his commitment to UT Martin, Mitchell was committed to Pearl River Community College on a baseball scholarship offer. 

“I’m thankful that God has blessed me with athletic ability even to have coaches interested in me,” said Mitchell. “When I committed to PRCC, I wanted to play baseball and try to get drafted. But my heart change over the decision after I prayed about it. Football is the way I want to go.”

During his career at South Jones, under two different head coaches (Cory Reynolds and Roger Satcher), Mitchell racked up 5,567 yards of offense. His yards collected through the air outweigh his yards on the ground (3,506-2,061), though his yards on the ground as a senior outweighed his yards in the air (1,077-918). The difference was in the offensive scheme he ran. 

At UT Martin, Mitchell will get a chance to run an offense much like the one he ran from his freshman year to his junior year.

“It’s a lot of run-pass option,” said Mitchell. “We’ll extend things out and play the field. It should be easy to get accustomed too and fit right in.”

“That system is going to be perfect for him,” said former South Jones head coach Cory Reynolds, who is now the offensive coordinator at Petal. “Mitchell is a tall kid who can see the field from the shotgun position. When we had him at quarterback and the receivers we had, we were able to spread the field and take what we can get. When he goes to UT Martin, Coach Simpson, who was a GA at Delta State University when I was there, will do a lot of the same stuff we did here and that’ll help the transition for Mitchell.”

UT Martin was the first Division 1 program to offer Mitchell. Mitchell says that played a part in his decision to commit and sign. 

“They were my first Division 1 offer,” said Mitchell. “They offered me at the end of my junior year and every since then they stuck with me. I took a visit up there at the beginning of this football season, and it felt like home. I wasn’t excepting to go there at first, honestly. It’s six hours away from home. But once I got up there, it felt like home. The coaches, the players, the facilities were all nice. All that made it easy for me to pick.”

Mitchell entertained at least 12 other offers, including the Air Force, East Mississippi, etc., but settled on UT Martin as his top choice. 

What his former and current high school head coach said:

Cory Reynolds: “My first year at South Jones as head coach was about rebuilding, and Mitchell was a huge part of that. He actually started as a receiver.

“Mitchell was a guy we could always count on, on the field and in the weight room, etc. The big word today is culture, and he was a part of establishing a good culture at South Jones. That is part of the reason he is here today in this position. He used his God-given abilities to better himself and didn’t waste them nor take them for granted. I’m very proud of him.”

Roger Satcher: “[In a way] it’s a sad day. When we changed our offense, we put in an offense that fed off his abilities, and we flourished with him. Our offense produced more yards than any offense in our school’s recent history as far as well can tell. He did a great job with our offense, so its a sad day in the fact that we’re losing him.

“But it’s a great day because he’s signing with UT Martin who has a good tradition in football. He’ll have a chance to do good there. It’s a good fit for him.”