Catching an accomplishment

Wide receiver’s state rank leads to opportunity


Megan Oosthuizen

Junior Jaren Mitchell stiff arms a Panther player.

The notification popped up on his phone, one that he wasn’t expecting. Junior Jaren Mitchell pulled the tweet up and his eyes widened; it claimed he was ranked the state’s 50th best wide receiver in football.

Mitchell has been playing on the varsity football team since ninth grade. At the age of five, his passion for the sport surfaced, and he was encouraged by multiple family football players to pursue it. After receiving the news about his ranking, Mitchell had mixed emotions.

“At first, I was pretty excited to be ranked but then I was like, ‘I’m not really excited with 50th,’” Mitchell said. “But I mean that’s a huge accomplishment, but I know that I could do better and I want to do better. It just gives me extra motivation to strive to get better everyday.”

Mitchell’s mom Celese Jones has encouraged Mitchell throughout his time as a football player. She was especially excited about Mitchell’s rank and helped him see the positive side of making the list.

“When he was younger, he used to receive negative criticism from a loved one and would get discouraged,” Jones said. “Over time he learned that it was his decision to feel defeated or turn the negative into something positive. He gained confidence in his abilities, stopped listening to the negativity, and decided to just enjoy playing the game.”

Mitchell said he cannot imagine life without football. He appreciates the opportunities football has brought him and believes football has made him who he is.

“I honestly don’t know how school would be without football,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never really thought about that. If I didn’t play football, I’d probably be a normal student like everyone else I guess. Football brings a lot of new people together and it gives you something to talk about with people and friends, it’s pretty cool.”

Due to his high school success, Mitchell currently has an offer for a full-ride scholarship to Brigham Young University.

“I have always told Jaren not to depend on football but rather focus on his grades and the pursuit of a higher education,” Jones said. “It just so happens that football has been the source of the his recognition from major universities. I have always supported his dream of making it to the NFL and hope he gets everything he wants. What is meant to be will be.”

Offensive coach Jeffery Hill has been working closely with Mitchell for the past year. Over their time together, Hill believes that Mitchell has strong skills that makes him an important asset to the team. To Hill, Jaren’s work ethic on and off the field has left an impression on the rest of the team.

“He shows other kids that when you do work hard, things can pay off for you,” Hill said. “When you’re coachable, you have the opportunity to get to where you need to be. Jaren is coachable and he is utilizing his talent and he’s always working hard at his craft, his trade.”

Mitchell credits his team, coaches, and mom for playing a huge role in why he works as hard as he does. He also believes football has shaped him to the person he his today.

“Me and my mom have always been close, so I just like to see her happy and make her happy and I know whenever I perform on Fridays, everything I do is for her,” Mitchell said. “Coach Hill and [offensive coordinator Michael] Odle motivate me a lot. They never let me settle and keep me focused on the task ahead and they always make sure I working hard. I do it for my teammates, too. We all really help motivate each other. We all know that our ultimate goal at the end of the day is to do our best so I do everything for them because I know they do everything then can for me.”

Mitchell feels his hard work did pay off by using the skills he learned in football, like always being on your toes and the willingness to work hard.

“Getting that national rank, I feel like I did represent the school,” Mitchell said. “I know the school was profound even though I was excited about making the list. I thought I should have been higher up on it [the list] but I can’t control that. I think I represented Hebron in a good way. Everytime I play on Fridays, I know I put the Hebron jersey on and do what I can to help the team and make Hebron look good.”