Mitchell had positioned himself to become a big-time contributor for the Iowa State defense following his redshirt sophomore year in 2014. He had two years of starting at defensive end and also played some snaps inside along the line. He was versatile, experienced and had two years of eligibility remaining.
During the offseason, swelling in his neck escalated into what Mitchell described as a feeling of being choked. That led to a CT scan and eventually a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February of 2015. His rare diagnosis was the start of an 18-month journey for Mitchell where playing football again was always on his mind, but knew his priority had to be fighting off his rare cancer and getting healthy. He returned to campus early in 2016, and was cleared to play just before the start of camp.
With a new coaching staff in place at Iowa State, and most of his former teammates gone, all Mitchell wanted was an opportunity. And he was promised that was all he would get. Mitchell not only earned a starting spot after 18 months away from the game, he was named a team captain and played all season at defensive end registering nearly 30 tackles.