Tight end John Mitchell opens up about his recovery from injuries and dedication to his team

The athlete spoke about the thoughts that went on in his head as he reflected on what he was going through.


Eston Parker III

After suffering injuries the past few seasons, John Mitchell (#85) is in the running for the Comeback Player of the Year award for his performances in the 2021 season.

Courtesy of Owl TV

Brianna Smith, Staff Writer

Following a career-threatening knee injury, John Mitchell made his return to the FAU football program and, so far this season, has created records of his own. 

The now-recovered graduate tight end has been the first in the 2021 season to record two touchdown receptions in one game, hauling four passes for a total of 60 yards in the Owls’ dominating 39-6 win against Georgia Southern. 

Just about a year ago, Mitchell was sitting back finding ways to tend to his injury while his teammates worked towards making a successful season. 

“A year ago, I was probably in bed with my leg up, [and] it was probably throbbing,” Mitchell said.

The athlete spoke about the thoughts that went on in his head as he reflected on what he was going through. 

Mitchell mentioned that his ACL injury wasn’t his first collegiate athletic incident. In 2017, he suffered from a back injury which caused him to think about the long-term effects these accidents would have on him.

“At this point, I’m like, ‘I wanna play with my kids one day– I want to have a normal life,’” Mitchell said. 

After injuries like the few that Mitchell has had, it made him think about what would be next for him– if returning to the field at all was in his deck of cards. However, when he made the decision, he put in just as much work mentally as he did physically. 

“I looked up people in the past who have done it, I’ve heard of people in the past who have done it in [like] five months, which I knew I wasn’t going to try,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell explained how he used social media sites, such as Instagram, to follow people who know the way to a successful recovery. As a result, he found a world-renowned knee specialist whose program he subscribed to.

Mitchell looked to those he could count on, people like Steve Emery, the program’s physical therapist, Associate Head Athletic Trainer Rudy Rodriguez, and Orthopedic Surgeon James Ross M.D. who performed his surgery, to help him get back to where he once was. “I had people to trust,” he said.

Making a comeback such as his, Mitchell’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. 

Of the 24 honorees for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year award, he sits amongst the rest of the group after being announced in the second week’s group.

The three award winners will be announced at the end of the football season this December and will be recognized at the Fiesta Bowl.

“I say this a lot; if you would’ve asked me a month before the [University of Florida] game, I don’t know if I would’ve confidently told you that I would be playing,” Mitchell said. 

Nonetheless, Mitchell’s accomplishments through recovery helped him get to where he is today and these achievements were made possible with the solid foundation of his teammates.

FAU’s football program has coined the term “Band of Brothers” or “B.O.B.,” and Mitchell says he couldn’t have done it without them.  

That “Band of Brothers” is what helped Mitchell through his recovery process and ultimately, his comeback. 

“I had people like [senior safety] Ahman [Ross], like [senior running back] Tyrek Tisdale who would always tell me it’s going to be okay,” Mitchell said. “‘I know it feels so weird right now, your knee feels crazy, the pain is probably worse than a lot of things you’ve felt before,’ but they let me know it will get better and it did.”

Even when things got a little challenging for Mitchell, it did not stop him from performing to the best of his abilities. 

“John Mitchell is a great teammate. His leadership on the field is one where he leads by example,” Ross said. “I admire John as a teammate because through his injuries and trials, he remained the same person and did not let any circumstance alter his work ethic on and off the field.” 

As a four-year veteran, Mitchell knew he could rely on his football family to become a better individual and player overall.

“​​Well John, I see [him] as a fighter, warrior, and a leader. As a player, he will do what it takes to get the job done [and] give his all,” Tisdale said. “Another thing about John that is immaculate is he is able to adapt to immediate change and make it comfortable, a true team player of B.O.B.” 

To all who have been injured or currently recovering from one, Mitchell says this: 

“First things first, listen to your body. I don’t want you to just go because other people have because you don’t want to play this game half in [and] half out,” he said. “So make that decision for yourself, whether or not you’re going to go forward. If you do, go for it, go all in and pray for the best, [and] expect for the worst. Just try not to worry too much.” 

Bria Smith is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @itsbriiaa.