Four members of his family join SMU transfer in Cheney, including Eagle wide receiver Cory Mitchell
When Bo Levi Mitchell (pictured at left) moved away to college to join his new football family, his real family came with him.
The Eastern Washington University senior quarterback had a storybook debut season for the EWU football team in 2010, leading the Eagles to the NCAA Division I football title with a 20-19 victory over Delaware in the title game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
And his family -- including Eagle wide receiver Cory Mitchell (pictured at right) -- was with him every step of the way. Then and now.
The Mitchell brothers are formerly from Katy, Texas, located near Houston. Bo Levi transferred to EWU from Southern Methodist, which is located in Dallas -- just a short distance away from Frisco. Cory redshirted the 2010 season as a freshman, but is actually two years older than Bo Levi. For that reason, they never had much of an opportunity to play football together until now.
While Bo Levi returns as EWU's starting quarterback, Cory is trying to earn playing time amongst a wide receiver corp returning three starters from last year's squad. In two spring scrimmages thus far, Cory has caught seven passes for 73 yards and two scores (but neither from Bo Levi).
"That was one of the main reasons I came here -- I definitely wanted to play with my brother at some point," said Bo Levi. "We were able to do it in baseball when I was young, and it was the greatest of times. Coming out here and seeing him catch the ball and make some plays is a lot of fun. Sooner or later I hope it's me throwing the ball to him and having him make touchdown catches."
Bo Levi was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the national championship game after passing for all three touchdowns in EWU's comeback from a 19-0 deficit. He finished with 302 yards and three touchdowns through the air, giving him a school-record 37 TD passes for the season.
He had nearly 50 members of his family in attendance that night, as Eastern closed its season with an 11-game winning streak and 13-2 overall record.
"It was huge," he said. "Walking out of the tunnel and hearing them yell how proud of me they are and seeing them up there was a big deal for me. It was a little sentimental seeing them all again, but it just drove me to want to say, 'let's go get this for them.'"
In the championship game, Bo Levi led Eastern on touchdown drives of 80, 89 and 63 yards in the final 16:48, including a game-winning 11-yard TD pass to Brandon Kaufman with 2:47 to play. That followed touchdown passes to Nicholas Edwards of 9 yards with 8:16 left and 22 yards to Kaufman late in the third quarter.
Four members of Bo Levi's family got a front-row seat for the title chase, most notably Cory. He came with Bo Levi to the EWU campus in Cheney, Wash., to be become a wide receiver for the Eagles. Cory redshirted his freshman season, but made the trip to Frisco with the team.
Bo Levi's other older brother, Patrick Honeycutt, also moved to Cheney to work. In late summer, Bo Levi's mother, Barbara Miller, and younger brother, Scooter Mitchell, also moved to Cheney. The brothers created a Katy High School alumni group in their new hometown -- Patrick graduated in 2003, Cory followed in 2006, Bo Levi graduated in 2008 and Scooter was the last to graduate in 2010. Scooter isn't currently in Cheney, but the rest of the family is.
"I knew Patrick was going to move up here with me and Cory," Bo Levi said. "But I didn't know my mom would come and Scooter would come. And I'm glad they are. I love having them here and I love seeing them in the stands at games."
"It helps a lot to have a supporting cast like that," he added. "And honestly, I have the best one in the world."
His parents divorced when he was seven. He is still close to his father, Mitch Mitchell, who lives in Katy with his wife Susan. They all were by his side when he decided to leave SMU after his sophomore season. He had started 19-straight games for the Mustangs, but was injured during his sophomore season and lost his starting position.
"My mother is a huge influence in the sense that she's been there all my life," he said. "When there have been downs, like at SMU, she's been there. And during the up times at Katy, she was always there no matter what."
"My dad has always looked out for me -- he's the steadying influence," praised Bo Levi. "He's always done the research on anywhere I've ever been -- it all came from him."
All three of his brothers also played football at Katy, and Patrick was a baseball player who eventually played the sport in junior college.
At Eastern, Bo Levi and Cory joined another family in a different sense. The camaraderie they share with their teammates at EWU was a large reason the Eagles won the national title.
"The players on this team are so close, and no matter what happens in the outside world, nothing comes into our locker room," Bo Levi explained. "When we get into the locker room, it's all about us, the brotherhood and the unity we have. We love it. We love the game and we play just to play the game -- we don't play for anything else. Not a lot of players are looking toward the NFL on this team, and that's kind of what we look at. We go out and play like this is our last game, your last day and your last year to play college football."
Part of his new Eastern family was the dependable offensive line, which featured the same five starters for most of the year. Only one was a senior, and EWU allowed just 24 quarterback sacks all year. On five occasions, the Eagles did not give up a sack.
"I've never gone a game where I was never touched until this year," praised Mitchell. "These guys are such a good group that when things go wrong they blame themselves. But they always come back and do what they are supposed to do -- they fight for you and they are always there for you."
"We all kind of love one another," he continued. "When you have five guys in front of you that played the entire year, you kind of have a special connection. It's special to be behind such a great offensive line."
Bo Levi is one of 15 starters -- including eight on offense -- returning for the 2011 season. He passed for 3,496 total passing yards as a junior, and his top two receivers are back as well, including Kaufman, who was the College Sporting News FCS Playoffs Most Valuable Player. En route to earning All-America honors as a sophomore, Kaufman caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and 15 TDs, including a pair of 100-yard performances in the final two games of the playoffs.
"The expectations are to do the same thing," Bo Levi said matter-of-factly. "I'm not going to sit here and say we aren't looking forward to another national championship -- we are. I don't care about any senior records for anybody, I'm looking for one thing and one thing only, and that's a national championship. When you have a team like this, where most players are coming back, that's what you should be looking for. We're missing just a couple of players, and we think we can come back and replace them. We just have to go out and fight for it."