Erik Mitchell didn’t think much of the conversation at the time, but maturity has an interesting way of illuminating things.
College football was the subject; Los Alamitos football Coach John Barnes the speaker.
The talk occurred shortly after Mitchell and several Griffin teammates signed letters of intent in 1990. He turned down more than a dozen schools to accept a scholarship from Colorado.
Naturally, Mitchell and his buddies were full of optimism--and, admittedly, a little full of themselves.
“Coach told us that guys can get lost in big schools,” Mitchell said. “He told us that sometimes coaches won’t even know your name.
“In some ways, I think I got lost. I didn’t think it would happen to me, but now I know it can happen.”
Mitchell left the county with the credentials of a certifiable high school star. But after five mostly frustrating years as a Buffalo, Mitchell now knows about one of life’s cruel realities: You don’t always get what you want.
“It’s been disappointing,” said Mitchell, 23. “When I was being recruited, (Colorado) Coach (Bill McCartney) said he would use me like Notre Dame used Rocket (Ismail).
“I was really looking for that, but it never happened.”
As with much in football, it’s mostly a question of numbers not adding up. Mitchell is 5 feet 9 and 160 pounds--after a big meal.
He started out at Colorado as a running back, the way he ended his Los Alamitos career. As a senior, Mitchell rushed for 1,038 yards and 20 touchdowns, and caught 16 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
But Big Eight linebackers are a tad bigger than the guys Mitchell faced in the Empire League.
“I had to block,” Mitchell said, “and that really didn’t work out too well.”
Although he won’t receive any Heisman Trophy votes, Mitchell is far from a bust. He’s the team’s fastest player, covering 40 yards in 4.27 seconds, according to the Colorado media guide.
Mitchell, a fifth-year senior, is a second-string cornerback and plays some when Colorado uses more than four defensive backs. He also is a key member of Colorado’s kickoff and punt return teams. A communications major, Mitchell said he will graduate in May.
Colorado’s coaching staff knows his name forward and backward.
As a sophomore in 1992, he started the first four games at wide receiver and played in all 11. Mitchell finished with 10 catches for 125 yards.
But last season, McCartney scrapped Colorado’s three-receiver offense in favor of a two-receiver, two-tight end set. With receiving stars Charles Johnson and Michael Westbrook on campus, well, the math was simple: Mitchell was the odd man out.
He didn’t catch a pass last season. The coaching staff switched Mitchell to defense the week before Colorado’s 41-30 victory over Fresno State in the Aloha Bowl, and Mitchell was impressive in 20 plays at cornerback.
“We were always after him to play defense because he does have such commanding speed,” said former Colorado defensive backs coach Greg Brown, now the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary coach. “The problem for Erik was that he never really settled into one position. Everyone wanted a piece of him because of his speed.”
Last week, Mitchell played in Colorado’s 24-7 loss to Nebraska.
“All the seniors really wanted that game,” Mitchell said. “It hurt, but it’s in the past and you have to move on.”
Mitchell seems to have learned a lot.
Former Brethren Christian running back Frank Brady scored his first touchdown for San Diego State in its 38-23 Western Athletic Conference victory over Hawaii on Saturday.
A junior walk-on tailback, Brady is listed second on the Aztecs’ depth chart. Brady (5-11, 190) has rushed for 119 yards in 27 carries.
Brady had a career-high 84 yards rushing in 14 carries during the Aztecs’ 20-13 victory over New Mexico Oct. 15. Selected All-Olympic League as a senior, Brady led Brethren Christian in rushing that season with 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Cal State Northridge’s football program benefits from county talent.
Senior defensive tackle Oscar Wilson (Santa Ana High and Rancho Santiago College) is a preseason Division I-AA All-American selection. Wilson (6-3, 282)--The Times Orange County lineman of the year in 1988 and ’89--shares the Matadors’ team lead in sacks with five. His co-leader is freshman lineman Jeff Bodholdt (6-3, 255), formerly of Irvine High.
Senior fullback Shaun Coleman (5-10, 225) played for Dana Hills High and Saddleback College. He is second on the team in rushing with 275 yards and four touchdowns in 50 carries.
Ashleigh Cross is providing one of the few bright spots for Whitman College women’s volleyball Coach Eddie Matthews.
Cross, a freshman outside hitter from University High, leads Whitman, an NAIA Division II school in Walla Walla, Wash., in several categories. She is first in kills (140) and digs (169), and is tied for the Missionaries’ lead in aces with 20. Whitman is 3-20.
“Ashleigh has emerged as a true team leader,” said Matthews, who starts five freshmen and a sophomore. “She’s stepped in and filled a giant hole for us.”
Rhode Island freshman setter Jessica Salmans (Fountain Valley High) has 886 assists for an average of 10.8 per game.
San Francisco senior outside hitter Megan Morse (Santa Margarita High) leads her team in kills (143) and digs (222).