HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — He’s waited almost two decades for this moment.
Now, redshirt freshman Cody Mitchell is within a month of having a lifelong dream become reality.
The former Point Pleasant standout will be aiming to make some more memories on the gridiron this fall as part of the active roster for the 2017 Marshall University football program.
Mitchell — who owns numerous school records at PPHS over a stellar four-year prep career — is expecting to make some contributions with the Thundering Herd after sitting out all of the 2016 campaign with a redshirt designation as a true freshman.
Mitchell — listed as a 6-foot-2, 238-pound tight end — won’t be in the mix for an offensive starting role, mainly given that senior and preseason all-conference first-team selection Ryan Yurachek will be back for his fourth consecutive fall at the tight end spot.
Mitchell will, however, have a spot on the depth chart that just might allow him to get on the field with the first- or second-team offense — even if it comes occasionally in the latter part of games.
Mitchell — the 2015 West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year in football — will also see a bit more action in another area of importance as part of the special teams department.
After not playing in an actual football game for almost 20 full months, Mitchell is ready to do whatever it takes to get on the field — and stay on it.
“This year is really going to mean a lot to me. I started working really hard for this in high school and I’ve put a lot of work into getting here, but I’ve found this to be a whole new animal here at Marshall,” Mitchell said. “I’ve worked twice as hard over the last year and have yet to play because of my redshirt season last year, which honestly was a really good deal for me to have an extra year to get ready. To know that all of this work will finally pay off this year, well let’s just say I’m ready to contribute to this team.”
Cody — whose father Darrell played tight end at West Virginia University in the mid-1980s — is hoping to become the third member of his household to actually play in a Division I football contest this year.
His older brother Derek — currently a member of the MU strength and conditioning staff — walked on and played both special teams and linebacker for the Thundering Herd until 2013.
Genetics aside, the youngest Mitchell acknowledged that as difficult as the 2016 season was to not be part of — he sure did pick up a lot just from observation.
“It was tough not getting to play, but there were a few things that I learned last year just by standing on the sidelines. For one, the game is much faster than it was in high school and the players are just so much bigger, stronger and quicker,” Mitchell said. “At Point Pleasant, there were some things that I could just coast through at certain points of the game. Now, there is no coasting … it’s full go here all the time.
“That first year really helped me learn the offensive system and get my bearings on the college game. I really think it was a blessing in a lot of ways and it has helped me understand what the coaches want from me this season and moving forward.”
It also helps to have an All-Conference USA selection to help tutor you into a new position — especially one that has currently strung together 28 straight games with at least one reception dating back to November of his freshman campaign.
“I have a lot of respect for Ryan (Yurachek) because he’s been a big help in teaching me the finer points of the tight end position in this offense,” Mitchell said. “He’s had a solid career and he’s always gone out of his way to help me understand anything I’ve had questions about since I got here. I am definitely glad to have him as a mentor and I don’t want to let him down, or anyone else, if I’m out there with the offense.”
During his four years with the PPHS gridiron program, Mitchell accumulated numerous school records and awards while helping the Big Blacks to four postseason appearances, three unbeaten regular seasons and a 41-6 overall mark.
Mitchell was the main offensive cog for the Big Blacks in 2015 after providing 2,321 yards and 42 touchdowns on 178 carries while also leading the team in receptions with 15 grabs for 213 yards and four scores.
Cody also amassed 101 tackles, 5.5 sacks and had five punt returns for touchdowns during a senior campaign that resulted in a 12-1 mark and a Class AAA state semifinal appearance.
Mitchell — who was also the 2015 Curt Warner Award as West Virginia’s top prep running back — set career records at PPHS that included most touchdowns (101), rushing yards (5,197) and all-purpose yards (7,233) while also setting a state playoff record in Class AAA with seven rushing touchdowns in a game.
Those days are still fresh in his memory since it was the last time he actually played in a real football contest. Cody also notes that the folks back home have remained supportive of his efforts over the last year — even though there really hasn’t been much to discuss football-wise.
That also hasn’t been forgotten by Mitchell, who won the 2016 Class AAA discus state championship in his final prep event at PPHS.
“The support over the last year has been great and I know that I have to make Point Pleasant proud because of all of the things my hometown has done for me throughout my whole life,” Mitchell said. “Outside of Marshall, my teammates, my coaches and my family, there is nobody else I want to make prouder than the people of Point Pleasant.”
Though he has yet to play a snap of college football, Mitchell has already had another ‘wow’ moment while attending Marshall after being named to the Dean’s List at the end of his freshman year.
He was most proud of that accomplishment during media day, as he should have been, but Cody didn’t come to Huntington just to hit the books.
He’s actually looking for something that hits back.
“I’m really hoping to get some playing time this year and I’m looking forward to contributing in any way that I can,” Mitchell said. “I’ve waited my whole life for this and it’s really close to becoming a reality, so I am excited to get this season and my career here at Marshall started.”
Cody is the son of Darrell and Debbie Mitchell of Point Pleasant.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.