Eagle wide receiver thought his football dream was over a couple of years ago, but now he will be a starter for EWU
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
His brother’s new start turned out to be a new beginning for Eastern Washington University football wide receiver Cory Mitchell.
Mitchell has not had a typical football journey. After a move to Colorado and a move back to graduate from Katy (Texas) High School in 2006, he was planning to play college football. But he decided to work and stay closer to his family in Texas instead, and believed that was the end of his football dream.
In 2010, Cory Mitchell’s younger brother Bo Levi Mitchell transferred to Eastern from Southern Methodist University and asked his brother to come with. Eastern made no promises, but asked for Cory's high school video and said that they would give him a chance to try out for the team.
That year, while Bo Levi Mitchell was leading the Eagles to their first-ever National Championship, Cory Mitchell was redshirting. Although they only got to play together one year in the 2011 season, Cory Mitchell says that playing football alongside his brother was like a dream come true and one of the greatest experiences he’s ever had.
Bo has been gone for going on two years, but Cory Mitchell has continued progressing. He enters his junior season with 23 career receptions for 342 yards and two scores in two seasons as an Eagle.
Last season, he was a backup receiver behind the trio of All-Americans Brandon Kaufman, Greg Herd and Nicholas Edwards, and also returned kickoffs. With those three players departed, Cory Mitchell is listed as one of the starting receivers for next season.
Aside from his play-making ability, Cory Mitchell’s unusual journey has created humility, gratefulness and a strong team-first attitude. He and the rest of the team will be playing in Eastern’s 32nd annual Red-White Game on Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
A lot of people might not realize that you’re actually Bo’s older brother because you started college later, why did you wait four years after high school to start?
“In my senior year I went to Colorado to play football and live with my sister. Halfway through the season I was doing very well in football, but I was very homesick. I missed my family and I had never been away for so long, so I quit football and went back home to graduate with my friends. I thought I was giving up the dream to play football. I continued to play in local leagues, played 7-on-7 flag football on the weekends and continued working out. About the time Bo was coming here from SMU he wanted me to join him. They asked me to send video from high school and said that the coaches would take a look at me and give me a shot to try and make the team. I came up here with him and here I am today.”
What was it like playing on the team with your brother?
“It was like a dream come true. I wish we could have played together longer. It’s just the instant chemistry whenever he looks at you and calls a play, you know he’s going to throw to you and you know where the ball will be, and it’s just like playing catch in the backyard. It was an awesome experience and maybe one day we’ll get to play together again.”
Estimate how many passes Bo has thrown to you through the years -- backyard included.
"That's tough. We've played football together since we could both pick up a ball. I couldn't really put an accurate number on it."
This year you are stepping into a starting role, what does that mean to you?
“It means a lot to me. A couple years ago playing college football wasn’t even a reality for me, so becoming a starter on a really good football team really means a lot.”
What is the biggest skill that you bring to the team at the receiver position?
“I would have to say my playmaking ability. I feel like when I get the ball in my hands I’m good at making people miss and trying to get to the end zone.”
How is your chemistry growing with quarterback Vernon Adams and the rest of the new look offense?
“Our chemistry is awesome. We’re friends not only on the field, but off of it too. Vernon and I mesh really well -- I met him on a recruiting trip when I came with my brother so I’ve known him pretty much the whole time he’s been here. We’re really good friends.”
Will there be any pressure or extra motivation for the new receiver core to replace the production of Kaufman, Edwards and Herd?
“I don’t think there is any extra added pressure -- we don’t feel that way. Those guys were All-Americans and they all had over 1,000 yards receiving. We’re just trying to do our best every day, the numbers and everything else will come.”
How was it like playing with and learning from those players?
“It was awesome and such a great experience. All three of those players are just great people, not only great football players. They really taught us how to be students of the game, how to watch film, how to read defensive coverage and how to approach the game like a pro. Behind the scenes you don’t get to see a lot of what those guys do, but I learned a lot from them.”
I know we lost some seniors, but how do you feel about your teammates and your chances of being back in the playoffs?
“They’re great. Our goal is to win the Big Sky and by doing that we can get back to the playoffs.”
In the past you have returned a lot of kicks and punts is this something the team will continue to have you do?
“I hope so. Every year is a new year and you have to go out and compete for the spot. Shaquille Hill and I were back there last year and I think we will be again this year.”
What do you enjoy most about playing football at Eastern?
“The camaraderie with the guys is what I enjoy. It’s like a break away from everything. Coach Baldwin always says when we’re on the field to shut out everything. It’s like a stress reliever for me to forget about everything and just play the sport I love.”
Do you have any goals for this upcoming season?
“Winning the Big Sky is the No. 1 goal. What everyone on this team wants is to win the Big Sky title outright. Of course we want to then go to the National Championship and win that, but first we want to win the Big Sky.”
What about personal goals?
“I just want to contribute and be part of making this team a success. I don’t have any numbers in mind and I don’t know what to expect. I just want to contribute to wins.”
Outside of playing football what do you like about being here at Eastern?
“It’s so much different than where I am from in Texas. It’s just a small town environment -- you can go to the grocery store and see people you know from class. I like the classes. I really like everything about this school. It’s a perfect fit for me -- not too big and not too small.”
What are you planning to do with your communication major?
“Everyone asks me that when I go home, but I’m not sure yet. I did communications at first because I’m not very good at talking in front of people, especially large groups. I figured that taking those classes would force me to get better and it’s something that you’re going to need to be able to do in the business world. Of course my goal is to continue playing football after I graduate, but if that doesn’t work out I will probably go work for AT&T. I have friends who are pretty high up in the company and make good money.”
Who has been your biggest motivation in your football journey and life?
“My biggest motivation is my fiancé. She is back at home with my two sons and she works two jobs. She is really incredible. She is the reason I want to go back home, but she is also the reason I want to stay here just to continue to work and continue to get my degree. She is definitely my biggest inspiration and motivation.”