VALDOSTA –– Israel Mitchell, Jr., shortened to ‘I.J.’, is a rotational running back for the No. 3 Lowndes Vikings and makes the most of his opportunities when he touches the ball.
The 17-year-old senior from Valdosta has 57 carries for 373 rushing yards along with four touchdowns in his final campaign as a Lowndes football player, earning him Region 7A 2nd Team Offense honors.
In the Vikings’ second-round playoff game, Mitchell led the team with 90 rushing yards on eight carries and iced the game with a 45-yard touchdown run with 1:33 left to put his team up 21-13.
Mitchell has played football for as long as he can remember, starting out in a flag football league in his youth and later meeting fellow senior Vikings teammate Jacques Hunter.
“I started playing football since I was able to walk for a flag team,” the running back said at practice. “And then I went to play for the Coach Brown on the Bulldogs. That’s when me and Jacques Hunter linked up and started playing together for the Boys and Girls club when we were 7-8 years old.”
Football is the center of Mitchell’s happiness as he looks forward to strapping up the pads on a weekly basis.
“I love football,” he said. “Say if I score a touchdown, it just puts joy in me and it’s fun.”
Mitchell looks up to former Vikings running back Travis Tisdale and tries to take the advice he passed down before continuing his playing career at the University of Kentucky.
“Travis Tisdale taught me many things that he did as a running back,” Mitchell said. “He showed me how to read holes and how to run and keep the ball uptight. I just try to perform like how he did and be in his footsteps.”
Tisdale rushed for 3,482 yards and scored 54 total touchdowns during his time as a Viking.
Mitchell knows he plays an important role in the offense and in the success of his team for them reach Center Parc Credit Union Stadium on Dec. 30.
“We have to run the ball well and go out with a bang,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get back to our home field for the semifinals because we don’t really lose here much.”
Outside of football, Mitchell enjoys his rural upbringing with exploration and agriculture.
“I like to ride dirt bikes and ride motorcycles,” he said. “I’m starting a bully kennel where I breed American Bully’s.”
When his time at Lowndes High School ends, I.J. has hopes of getting an education, but will keep his options open by going straight to work as an alternative.
“If college comes, I’ll go,” he said. “I want an education but other than that I’m either going to get a job or keep going with my dog kennel.”