There are times when a writer needs that certain vibe, an impulse or inspiration, if you will, to get the first word on the page to start a story. Well people, I am here to tell you a couple of Friday’s ago, I was truly inspired. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been this inspired about a high school quarterback since the glory days of Major Harris at Brashear…Now that I have your attention let’s go on!
REGGIE L. MITCHELL
It’s the opening round of the 2011 WPIAL playoffs for Shadyside Academy against Beaver, which has one of the best defenses in western PA. Quarterback Reggie Mitchell ran for189 yards and four touchdowns, and threw for another 57 yards. All this, I might add, without the services of his partner and major threat Dennis Briggs. (We’ll get back to him later).
Most area high school football fans have heard about the extraordinary talents of Mitchell, the six foot, 175 pound, three year starting quarterback and cornerback. If not, allow me to get you caught up. Reggie Mitchell is the first Black quarterback in the history of the Shadyside Academy. A two-way starter at quarterback and cornerback, he was recruited by Maryland, Pitt, Ohio State and Penn State among numerous others. He recently decided to take his talents to the Big Ten Conference and play for the Badgers of Wisconsin. He admits that Ohio State was his first choice. This was due in part to a young man he looked up to and was motivated by as a football player, Terrelle Pryor.
None of this happened overnight. For Reggie, it’s been a long time coming, but he has known for quite some time that he could play and that he would play at the next level.
Although a talented basketball player, standout track man and golfer (shot an 87 at age 14), Reggie has always known football would be his sport. He can remember thinking about playing in the Big Ten as early as the sixth grade.
It was against a star-studded Sto-Rox team as a 10th grader that he realized he could compete with anybody. In that game he ran for 50 plus yards, including a rushing touchdown and threw one as well.
Reggie will be the first person to tell you that he has had a considerable amount of help during this journey. He is proud to say it started at home with mom and dad. His mom, Vicky Mitchell Taylor, who has an athletic background of her own, says she knew her son could really play as early as 8th grade when she recognized his seriousness about the game.
His dad, Jim Taylor, aka “JT” (Yes, the one and the same as JT’s Ribs in Penn Hills) stressed the same thing to Reggie as he did to his other two sons James III and Brandon. The things he was taught as a young man and a very talented athlete in his own right, your job is to work hard, study hard and be the best person you can be at whatever you do. JT, who is Reggie’s stepfather, is quick to point out that Reggie is his son and has been from the first time he saw him. As he smiles at Reggie it is obvious that he is proud of his son. You see, Reggie’s biological father died at the much too early age of 30 after a brief illness.
Along with his parents there are his trainers Maness Carner, Duane Brown and Vaughn Rivers, who starred at WVU. Last but certainly not least is someone Reggie gives a tremendous amount of credit and appreciation, his partner, best friend, teammate and motivator Dennis Briggs (I told you I would get back to him.) Briggs, a six-foot, 190 pound running back, wide receiver and free safety is credited with pushing Reggie to the max. Already recognized by Oregon University, Briggs is set to become Shadyside’s next superstar. He joins Reggie in setting his sights on getting a great education, having a stellar college career and oh yes…playing on Sunday afternoons.
We all know that no athlete’s story is complete without recognizing the school and more importantly the coaching staff, which at Shadyside Academy is headed by Coach Dave Havern.
I mentioned earlier that Reggie is the first Black quarterback in Academy’s history. I mentioned it, but they did not. Race is not important to the coaching staff at Shadyside. What is important is that Reggie is and has been a greater person off the field than he is on the field. In short, he has not had one problem off the field in his entire time at the Academy. Not many athletes can make this claim.
With 40 years under his belt, the last eight at Shadyside Academy, Coach Havern recognizes Reggie as a one-of-a kind athlete. He has no doubt that Reggie will be a great player at the next level.
Wisconsin Head Coach Brett Bielema made it clear early on that he wanted Reggie to be a Badger. Reggie knew he wanted to be a Badger the moment he set his talented 4.4 – 40 yard dash feet on campus at Madison, Wisconsin. He knew that is where he would call home for the next four years…or maybe three?
I asked Reggie for some parting words that he could pass on to future stars who may admire him, as he does Pryor and Darrell Revis of the New York Jets. His response was this, “No matter what your current condition, make sure you understand what opportunities you have and take full advantage of them. Work as hard as you can and do not let your circumstances define you.”
Having heard this, I’m sure it’s as clear to you as it has been to me all along that Reggie Mitchell is not only on his way to becoming a great college athlete but a great young man. I predict that we will be hearing a great deal more about him for years to come.
GO MITCHELL! GO BADGERS!