Top Dog of the week: Aaron Mitchell

Senior Fresno State center Aaron Mitchell (77) holds up wide receiver KeeSean Johnson (3) after the receiver scored a touchdown against Sacramento State on Sept. 10, 2016 at Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State won 31-3. (Collegian File Photo)

Senior Aaron Mitchell is a man of many roles: starting center for the Bulldogs football team, team captain, student, family man and, this week, The Collegian’s Top Dog.

Mitchell led the charge for the offensive line last Saturday in the 48-16 loss to the University of Washington. The Bulldogs finished with a total of 119 rushing yards against a sturdy Huskies run defense that ranks 21st in the nation, allowing only 93.7 yards per game.

“We didn’t perform very well enough in any aspect,” Mitchell said. “I did like the fight out of the team. You can build off that type of stuff. The not giving up in games no matter what the score is, fighting until the last whistle – you can build off that type of stuff.”

Mitchell, as the team’s vocal and exemplary leader, can always be counted on to find the silver lining in the team’s low points throughout the season.

But his leadership role is not solely self-proclaimed. It was an honor his teammates bestowed upon him and Malik Forrester when the team captains were voted on at the beginning of the season.

“It’s definitely an honor. I was chosen by my teammates as captain,” Mitchell said.

Other than that, Mitchell made it clear that the “captain” title has not changed his routine or mentality. He always comes out to play and practice with the same “juice.”

“Just because I’m a captain doesn’t separate me from everyone. I’m just another guy just like every guy on the team,” he said. “Maybe I just say a couple more words than other guys, but that’s about it.”

In Mitchell’s eyes, the team is one big family. Everyone is treated equally and everyone is held equally accountable. As for his role in the Bulldog family, Mitchell couldn’t be happier playing on the offensive line.

“We do the work to let others shine. There’s nothing glorified about it,” he said. “You don’t hear about offensive linemen in the paper, which is totally fine. That’s how it should be. We like the grind. We like making our quarterback look good. We like keeping him clean on Saturdays. We like picking up the [running] backs.”

But the grind does not stop on the field for Mitchell. As for all student-athletes, it continues in the classroom.

“It’s definitely tricky,” he said of the balancing act between school and football. “I get my football stuff in the morning. I watch film at night, and then I have time to do homework.”

Mitchell said he values such a difficult workload because it builds character, and he believes that character building will pay off in the future.

Mitchell’s love for his collegiate football family and routine is rooted in the love he has for his biological family – most of whom live in Oceanside.

His family could nearly fill a collegiate football roster based solely on the number of people in it. But the key to such a large support system has always been his parents, Anthony and Michelle Mitchell.

“My parents travel really well,” the senior said. “I don’t think my parents have missed a game since I’ve been here, home or away. It’s always nice to get a smiling face and a big hug from the parents and the grandparents after each game, whether it’s a win or loss.”

Aaron Mitchell has nine more post-game hugs left this season and he hopes to cherish every minute of them and the rest of the college football experience.

“It’s awesome. I love it. I got nine more Saturdays with these guys out here,” he said. “I’m honestly not even trying to think about [the end] right now. I just want to play ball, and that’s all we’re out here for. Once you step on the field, everything goes away and you just play football.”

As for his aspirations after college, Mitchell jokingly mentioned working for a Fortune 500 company and not so jokingly mentioned his dream of playing in the NFL one day. But right now, he said, his focus is on this season.

“Those things are super out of my control,” he said. “The only things I need to think about are the things I can control, which is having a good attitude, strapping it on and coming to practice every day, and just putting the best image of myself on the field.”

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