Separated by over 1,700 miles, Garrett Mitchell smiled when the name of his older brother, Steffon, was mentioned Tuesday during University of Jamestown football practice on the turf.
Garrett Mitchell is currently penciled in at starting outside receiver for the Jimmies in tomorrow's 73rd Paint Bucket rivalry game vs. Valley City State University. Steffon Mitchell, on the other hand, will be a junior forward for Boston College men's basketball this winter, after starting in 24 games and averaging 7.9 rebounds per night as a sophomore for the NCAA D-I Eagles.
Steffon's rebounding prowess ranked fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"He's been such a big role model of mine," said Garrett Mitchell, who at 19 is two years younger than Steffon. "It's been unreal, just being able to look up to him and see him do a great job at the level he's playing at. I'm just trying to replicate it."
Plenty of buzz surrounded Mitchell's freshman fall camp with the Jimmies last August. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound WR from Shakopee, Minnesota, was thought of as a potential gamechanger by then UJ head coach Josh Kittell. But growing pains and physical injuries at the collegiate level largely shuffled Mitchell into the background.
Mitchell played in seven games for the Jimmies in 2018, catching just 14 passes for 163 yards. His only touchdown was a 5-yard pitch and catch from returning starting quarterback Jordan Mann in last October's 49-18 loss to Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa.
"The game was fast," Mitchell explained. "I found a little rhythm in the middle of the year, and then I was out with a concussion for a game and it kinda set me back.
"But, you know, it's not really about me. It's about all the other receivers. They were doing well and they kept feeding the hot hand."
Barry Williams Jr., who's starting in the slot Thursday, erupted onto the scene last August as a true freshman, going for 77 receiving yards and a touchdown in UJ's 28-26 win over Valley City State. Williams is UJ's only returner to have garnered All-Great Plains Athletic Conference accolades.
"He's going to make plays. He's going to open it up for me and vice versa," Mitchell said of Williams, a Las Vegas native. "We've got electrifying players. We're not freshmen anymore. We're coming out, we know what's expected and we're going to take it to the next level this year."
UJ head coach Brian Mistro believes in Mitchell's potential to become a reliable outside threat for the Jimmies. The coach said Mitchell, once again, stood out in fall camp.
"He's got some freak to him," Mistro said. "From a work ethic standpoint, from a health standpoint, from a hand/catching standpoint, he's everything that you want your outside receiver to be."
A third sophomore, Marcus Giles, is slated to line up opposite Mitchell on the outside. Giles and Williams combined for 53 receptions for 820 yards and six touchdowns in 2018.
The trio is well aware of what tomorrow's game means. Valley City State leads the all-time series 62-53-5 and the Paint Bucket series 41-31.
The 121st meeting between the Jimmies and the Vikings begins at 7 p.m. at VCSU's Shelly Ellig Field.
"We know what this game's for, and it's not really just for us," Mitchell said. "It's for the alumni, it's for all the talking rights between the two cities. We're going to come out and we're going to show out."
But briefly getting back to Steffon, who stands 6-foot-8. What happened there?
"Hey, man, he got the height," Mitchell laughed. "I don't know what to tell you? I wish I could've got that. But, hey, that's all him."
-- Junior Noah Sloka, sophomore Trenton Freitag and freshman Khamar Floyd are listed as No. 2s on the WR depth chart.
-- Junior RB Allen Jevning (130 carries, 545 yards in 2018) is listed as the No. 1 back in what should prove to be a backfield by committee with senior Jimmy Hatch (161-655) and sophomore Josiah Cage (40-135) also in the mix.
-- Senior QB Jordan Mann (2,111 career passing yards, 16 TDs, 14 Int.) will again be backed up by sophomore Cade Torgerson.
-- Sophomores Scott Walther (LT) and Ethan Birnbaum (RT) have been tabbed out of the gate to fill UJ's holes on the offensive line.