While many of R.J. Mitchell’s peers used their Christmas breaks to shop, try out gifts or play video games, he showed off his football skills inside the Dallas Cowboys’ famed stadium.
“It was an amazing feeling running through that tunnel onto the field,” the 15-year-old said. “It’s the kind of thing you dream of getting to do.”
Cowboys Stadium was the site of the 2011 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, which annually showcases high school football players from throughout the country competing in a four-team tournament.
“They selected me for the West team instead of the Southeast team, but that turned out OK,” joked Mitchell.
That’s because the West defeated the Southeast 16-12 in the championship game.
Mitchell, a freshman at Grovetown High School, attended a camp and combine in Atlanta last summer held by the O-D Bowl, which conducts several such events throughout the country. He then was among just 20 percent of those participants to receive an invitation to compete in the All-American Bowl. Only one other Augusta area resident was invited to attend, but he couldn’t make the trip.
“That was amazing,” Mitchell said. “This thing is like a launching pad to get noticed (by college recruiters).”
In addition to meeting several young players from all over the U.S., many of whom he maintains contact with, Mitchell said his skills as a middle linebacker greatly improved – so much so that he hopes to start at that position for the Grovetown High varsity squad as a sophomore.
“I love to hit people,” Mitchell said of playing linebacker. “Also, you’re like the quarterback of the defense, and I love being in the leadership role.”
Each year, the O-D Bowl also holds a special game for seniors, which Mitchell said he hopes to play in.
“The ultimate goal is to get a scholarship and a lot of guys who play in that go on to (Division I) schools,” he said. “If someone will be paying me to go to their school, I’ll go. If I can play football on top of that, then that’s icing on the cake.”