Hello and welcome back to Connor’s Corner, where I will discuss a standout performance in professional sports as well as that player’s journey from high school to the professional level. This week we’ll be looking at Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, whose standout performance this past weekend helped upset a Buffalo Bills team that many picked to win not only this game, but Super Bowl LVII.
On the road, facing elimination as an underdog, The Bengals needed a knight in shining armor to save the day. They found theirs this past Sunday in Mixon. Mixon had it his way, breaking out with 105 yards on the ground, 18 yards through the air and a touchdown from a yard out to end the Bills’ playoff run in the divisional round for the second year in a row. Despite Mixon’s touchdown coming late in the game, his presence was felt from the kickoff, as his 20 attempts on the ground helped set up a passing attack, which proved dominant from the get-go as demonstrated by a 28-yard touchdown reception by Ja’Marr Chase. Buffalo still had a chance to win halfway through the fourth quarter, but Mixon led the opposing charge with a crucial first down, which forced the Bills to use up their timeouts. By the time Buffalo saw the ball, there was 2:32 left in the game, no timeouts, and they were down two touchdowns — a comeback even prime Tom Brady himself could not mount. Mixon and the Bengals are now hoping for a sequel to last year’s AFC championship game, where Cincinnati defeated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs 27-24, and Mixon amassed 115 total yards at Arrowhead Stadium; a performance to remember.
Mixon has had a roller coaster of a year, as he’s had a reduced role on offense with Chase emerging as a superstar wide receiver. Mixon also missed two games after suffering a concussion in Week 11 against Pittsburgh. He has also suffered from weak offensive line play with a number of injuries, taking him nine weeks to surpass the 100-yard marker on the ground. When he’s healthy, he’s lethal, as he has rushed for over 1,000 yards three times since 2018. It should be noted he missed ten games in 2020 with a foot injury.
What put Mixon on the radar of Division I colleges was his unmatched performance in high school, where he attended Freedom High School in Oakley, California, as a five-star recruit. Only New York Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was rated higher in his home state. Mixon shredded defenses, accumulating 5100 all-purpose yards, 57 rushing touchdowns and 10 touchdowns through the air. Mixon averaged 7.2 yards per carry and 126.2 yards per game. This spectacular career helped Mixon receive around 50 Division I offers; he would later commit to the University of Oklahoma.
Mixon’s collegiate career was shorter than most NFL prospects, as the Big 12 running back only played two seasons with the Oklahoma Sooners. Despite this, the California native ranks third all-time in career receiving yards by an RB at Oklahoma with 894. This is all the more impressive, considering Mixon did not play four full seasons for the Sooners. In Mixon’s “senior year”, per se, he lit up opposing defenses by setting an Oklahoma single-season record in all-purpose yards (2,331) and all-purpose yards per game (194.3). Despite Mixon’s impressive resume, he had some blemishes which caused teams such as the Dolphins, Ravens and Patriots to see him as “undraftable,” despite him being touted as one of the most talented running backs in the draft class. This is due to an altercation before Mixon’s initial arrival on campus, which caused him to be suspended for an entire season. The incident involved him punching fellow student Amelia Molitor. Mixon would end up completing 100 hours of community service and attending counseling to control his emotions. Molitor and Mixon met behind closed doors to discuss the incident after, and Molitor went on to say, “I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did.” Mixon expressed remorse for this incident, noting, “It really doesn’t matter what she did, it’s all on me,” Mixon said. “I take full responsibility for what I did. It’s never OK to hit a woman. I would preach that to anybody. Hopefully people around the world learn from my mistake.” After all of this, The Bengals took Mixon with the 16th pick in the second round (48th overall) by the Bengals.
Mixon is enjoying a solid NFL career despite his fair share of setbacks. If the Bengals want to hoist their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, they will need the back to play as he did last Sunday. The Bengals are as motivated and united as ever in particular, due to an incident with the NFL selling tickets for a neutral-site February matchup between the Bills and Chiefs, which will not happen following Cincinnati’s upset win. Many Bengal players took to social media and post-game interviews to share the “disrespect” they believed the NFL shed on them. Mixon would also take to Twitter, tweeting, “AFC CHAMPIONSHIP IN MERCEDES BENZ STADIUM THAT’LL BE NEVERUARY MAKE SURE YALL GO GET YALL REFUNDS BACK.”
The ball is in Mixon’s hands. If he continues to do what he has done many times in his career by putting up a strong attack on the ground, his already dangerous offense will be much more explosive, and history will repeat itself with the Bengals defeating Kansas City on the road and going to the big game in back-to-back seasons.