A journey well traveled

Former Division I quarterback has found a home at Ferris

Mylik Mitchell faced a long and difficult road to find himself as Ferris’s starting quarterback. Photo courtesy of Mylik Mitchell.

Happy. Humble. Unselfish. Tough. Contagious.

These are words teammates and coaches have used to describe sophomore quarterback Mylik Mitchell. As a former Division I starting quarterback, many people wonder how he ended up at Ferris State University. 

The journey began in Cleveland, Ohio. With a father in prison and a mother working in Texas, Mitchell lived with his sister and grandmother. At the age of 14, Mitchell made an enormous decision to move out to help his family. 

“I was numb to a lot of things at that age,” Mitchell said. “I was trying to survive and fix things for me and my sister.”

A year later, he began his football career at John Hay High School. Mitchell began to shine for the Hornets, and he became a top-100 prospect in the state of Ohio. In his junior and senior seasons, he was named Senate League all-star, and he even won Senate League MVP in his final year.

Despite not winning championships, Mitchell, who was also the team captain, was sought after by multiple Division I programs across the region. When it came down to decision day, the Senate League standout ultimately chose Kent State as his next stepping stone. 

“I received a handful of MAC offers early my junior year,” Mitchell said. “I kept those offers on the table until many of them were taken away due to the school’s quarterback position being filled. After hearing Kent State wanted me on a visit, I told them I wouldn’t visit unless I got a full ride. Once they gave me the offer, I didn’t look back.”

During his first year on campus, Mitchell began to adjust to college life at Kent State. On the football field, he took a redshirt season and began to learn and study behind starting quarterback Dustin Crum. By 2016, Mitchell earned the starting job and found himself under center for the unranked Golden Flashes in their Week 1 clash with Penn State, who was ranked seventh in the nation at the time. Despite the huge gap in the rankings, Kent State fought hard and only trailed 16-13 after the first half. However, the Nittany Lions dominated the second half and went on to win 33-13.

While Kent State would eventually drop game number two to North Carolina A&T, Mitchell’s first college victory came a week later against Monmouth. Mitchell led the Flashes with his highest passer rating of the season (128.2), along with 77 rushing yards and two passing touchdowns.

Week 4 brought one of his most memorable moments yet, a showdown against Nick Saban and the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. It was clear the playing field was lobsided, as the Crimson Tide put up 27 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. Late in the second quarter, Mitchell tried to provide a spark to his team before halftime, but the quarterback was hit and sacked by multiple defenders, including current NFL Pro Bowler Minkah Fitzpatrick. Mitchell was forced to leave the game with a wrist injury and would not find the field again that year.

“I was immediately pressured on my drop back,” Mitchell said recalling the play. “When I was wrapped up, I fell backward with the ball in my right arm facing upright. The last guy that jumped in the pile landed on my arm and the pressure broke my wrist.”

After rehabbing from his wrist injury, Mitchell was ready to lead the Golden Flashes under center in 2017. Unfortunately, the former John Hay standout tore the ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus in his right knee. Just like that, his season was over one week before their opener against Clemson.

“I thought football was done with me,” Mitchell said. “I fell into an abnormal state mentally and stepped away from football during my rehab.”

Following the injury, the former D1 starter began to step back and re-evaluate his journey moving forward. After three years, Mitchell decided to return to football and began his school search once again. Later in 2019 he got a call from one of his former coaches, Brian Rock. Rock, the Assistant Head Coach at Ferris, previously served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Kent State from 2011-2014.

“I had gotten contacted from someone that Mylik was looking for a place to go,” Rock said. “Once I heard that news, I reached out and we started the conversation on how to get him here.”

After jumping through the admissions and eligibility hoops, Mitchell joined Coach Rock and Ferris State Football in 2019. He joined seven other quarterbacks competing for the starting spot on Division II’s second-best offense in the nation. From the very moment Mitchell stepped on the practice field, Rock knew Mitchell had grown since his time at Kent State .

“When you’re talking about a 17, 18 year old freshman, that’s a little different than someone with game experience. He had matured a great amount and improved immensely,” Rock said. 

Despite sustaining a second knee injury to his left knee, Mitchell pushed through his self-doubts and got back to full health over the 2020 pandemic related offseason.

The Bulldog’s first game of 2021 came on a bright Thursday night against former GLIAC rival, Findlay. While Mitchell was not #1 in the depth chart, head coach Tony Annese sent him in on Ferris’s third drive of the game. Mitchell wasted no time leading his team down the field with an assortment of QB runs and passes. In less than a minute and a half, Mitchell had taken the Bulldogs 60 yards to set up a Jared Bernhardt touchdown. Mitchell subbed in a few more times throughout the game, finishing with 45 yards passing and 18 yards rushing in their 54-14 blowout victory.

Despite not being number one in the depth chart, Mitchell remained optimistic for his next opportunity. He was finally given the starting nod in the week four homecoming game against the Davenport Panthers. Despite a slower start, the Ohio native bounced back with a perfectly thrown touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Mitchell finished the game with 194 yards passing and a 75% completion rate, as well as a praised shoutout from Annese.

“I thought he did a lot of good things,” cAneese said regarding Mitchell’s performance. “[It was a] great performance and I’m really proud of him.”

For Mitchell, the Davenport game wouldn’t last long as his best performance, not by a long shot. In week five, the Bulldogs travelled to Northwood to face the Timberwolves. On his first three passes of the game, Mitchell collected 69 yards and led the Bulldogs into the end-zone. This trend of massive yardage continued all night, where Mitchell threw for a school record 508 passing yards and six touchdowns in their 67-25 win.

“I just did what I was brought here to do,” Mitchell said. “I did my job and I am proud everybody did theirs. It was a team performance.”

Despite the huge performance, Bernhardt’s return from injury bumped Mitchell down to his backup role from earlier in the season. While many college quarterbacks would be furious with the change, Mitchell had a different approach that he learned at a young age.

“I came up in a household where nothing was really yours. We shared everything we possibly could. I know who I am and no lack of playing time will make me volatile,” Mitchell said.

Although Mitchell has only started in two games this season, he has brought a level of leadership that has impacted the whole team.

“Mylik has set the standard for attitude and approach for our entire team,” junior receiver Brandon Childress said. “The man broke a school record, didn’t play the next game and never complained once. He shows up ready to work and takes on any role he’s given. He’s nothing but a true teammate.”

Mitchell’s impact has been large within the Ferris football program. When asked about that impact, Mitchell said he wants it to be more than just on the football field.

“When people think of me, I want it to bring a smile to their face. I want to be known as a man who impacted his family and community in a positive way. I give the hope to kids in my community that you can make it out of a hostile neighborhood. If one person can reach their goals in life because they saw my story, then I’ve done my job in this world.”

To follow Mitchell and Ferris football going forward, visit the “Football” tab at www.ferrisstatebulldogs.com.