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Mixon: Star @Twitter, On Gridiron

“Don’t ever shrink your dream to fit into someone else’s definition of what’s possible.”

Joe Mixon has used Twitter to make a ton of connections.

Joe Mixon did not coin that phrase. But the outstanding prep running back from California shared that line recently – along with other inspirational quotes – on his Twitter timeline.

Mixon, a national top-100 prospect from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom High School, is a fixture on the social network Twitter. He has made over 15,000 Tweets and has over 4,300 followers – pretty good for a guy finishing his junior year of high school.

Of course, the 6-2, 210-pound Mixon is not your ordinary high school junior. He already has three 1,000-yard seasons to his credit and no fewer than 44 top Division I schools after him for his services. He has already accepted an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game next January.

“Being in the top 100 is great,” said Mixon, who is rated as the nation’s No. 75 prospect overall, the No. 8 running back nationally and eighth-best prospect in California by 247Sports.com. “Not too many people get that kind of opportunity. It is neat to be considered one of the top running backs in the country.”

Twitter, of course, is an online social network that allows posters to interact instantly with one another on matters of sports, news of the day, relationships or whatever strikes their fancy. Mixon, under the handle @Joe_MainMixon, has posted any number of inspirational sayings – as well as the usual thoughts of a high schooler on his sports, his friends, his schoolwork and anything else that comes to mind.

“I really like Twitter,” he said. “It is a good thing to have. You can connect with all kinds of athletes on there. You can connect with (college) coaches. You can connect with your friends at school and people who know you.

“Some people put their feelings on there about different things. Some people love to have fun and joke around. Some people they like to have fun and joke around. Some people put quotes on there. I try to do it all. I try to interact with people and talk with recruits at different schools.”

Mixon said he has seen his share of college football fans vying for his affections on Twitter.

MIxon already has three 1,000-yard seasons under his belt.

“I’ll say something about a school, like, ‘Can I get a follow from Arkansas?’ and then you get a lot of retweets,” he said. “Then the fans of the other schools come in and say what they want to say about their school.

“I like it when the fans Tweet positive things to me. I really appreciate that.”

Oakley, Calif., is located about 45 miles east of Oakland in northern California. Freedom High School coach Kevin Hartwig said he understands that in the year 2013 his prominent athletes – and even others who aren’t as high profile – are going to interact with their friends and strangers worldwide via the various social networks. He just hopes that Mixon and his classmates keep it all on the up and up.

“I hate it, personally,” Hartwig said with a laugh. “Some kids don’t understand the totality of it all. If you say something, they think they can delete it or apologize. But it’s still egg on your face. For a young man to deal with that … he shut down the Facebook thing, that was good. He’s on Twitter and we just say, ‘Be smart with it.’ It’s perception versus reality.

“I wish they did not have all of that stuff. But it is what it is. It’s been OK. You find out what’s out there and you have conversations. I don’t have time to follow it. I tell the players, ‘If I find out there is something I have to deal with, it’s not going to be fun.’ ”

Hartwig said Mixon’s Twitter has not been a problem. In fact, he has been a good leader for the Freedom program and inside the school as well.

“He’s great,” the coach said. “He’s well known on our campus. I don’t have any bad things to say about Joe. He’s been a great kid and he understands the whole package. He’s a great role model on our campus. He is at school every day. He’s the type of kid you want to have in your program.”

Barton Simmons, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com, said some prospects can create a buzz for themselves with colleges by being active on social networks. But he also noted that Mixon is good enough on his own merits.

Mixon holds 44 college offers from top programs across the country.

Joe Mixon’s offer list has become almost a phenomenon, a sort of running joke among those that follow recruiting closely,” Simmons said. “With that, though, it has also become high profile. Word spreads quickly and when college coaches feel that an offer list is filling up, they feel pressured to throw one out as well just to get in the game.

“Mixon is a great prospect but his highly publicized offer list has snow-balled. I don’t think the pace and timing of his offers are unrelated to the way he’s been able to create this Twitter buzz.”

So How Good Is He?

As noted, Mixon has enjoyed three 1,000-yard seasons in his first three years of high school. In those three years, he has amassed 3,763 yards.

As a junior, he had 201 carries for 1,443 yards with 20 touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for 383 yards and six scores.

“It’s a big accomplishment to have three 1,000-yard seasons,” Mixon said. “I’m just glad I’ve been able to do it and play behind a very good offensive line. They did a good job for me and helped me have success. When they give you an opportunity, you want to take advantage of it and get all the yards you can and score.

“I have to give all of the credit to my line. Then, it’s on me to break tackles and get into the secondary.”

Asked about his running style, Mixon said, “I think I can do everything, quite honestly. I have a lot of power when I need to use it. I run with a lot of power, but I also run with a lot of balance. I can run, I can catch, I can block. I think I can do it all.”

Mixon has been quoted saying that Freedom fans like to come and watch “the show” with the Falcons’ high powered offense. They hit the 40-point mark seven times during a 9-3 season in 2012.

“Mostly we ran out of the shotgun with the spread offense,” Mixon said. “We had a great quarterback (Dante Mays) who played like Colin Kaepernick. He looked like him and was fast like him. He is going to Nevada like Colin did. We also had a big-time receiving threat in Darrell Daniels, who is going to Washington. Then I was at running back.

“It was like a three-headed monster at running back and they could not handle all of us. They fed off me and I fed off of them.”

Hartwig said Mixon has a great feel for the game and that translates into his running.

“He just understands,” Hartwig said. “Right from the start, we knew we had something special when he was a freshman. He just has that sense of where to go. That’s pretty rare.

“He can be a big back when he wants to. He can run you over or outrun you. He, by far, has the best hands around.”

Simmons said Mixon has the ability to impact a game in different ways.

“As a prospect, there’s not a lot that Mixon is missing,” Simmons said. “He’s appealing to almost every program because he can excel in almost any offense. Mixon has size, the ability to catch the ball in the pass game, great feet in space and has shown the ability to run through tacklers. He’s as complete of a back as there is in the 2014 class.”

Mixon attends his team’s spring football practices when he can while also running for the track team in the sprint events (100-meter dash, 200 and 4x100 relay).

“When I don’t have track, I go to football,” he said. “I am keeping pretty busy.”

All of this hard work has paid off as Mixon will be on display in the U.S. Army All-American Game in January in San Antonio.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be able to go down there,” Mixon said. “It is a gift from God. I want to go down there and put on a show in front of 20,000 fans and the millions watching on TV. It would be great to get my name out there and show out. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Picking A School

Earlier this spring, Mixon sifted through his offer list and came up with a list of 16 schools.

“I think he is down to a solid 16,” Hartwig said. “I think he is trying to find a place that best fits his style of running. That’s been tough.”

That list included (listed alphabetically): Arizona State, Arkansas, California, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Washington and Wisconsin.

It was originally reported that Mixon would only deal with those 16 schools going forward. However, he told us this past week that he could still consider other schools that had offered him.

“I’m still open to all 44 of my offers,” he said. “The list of 16 schools I put out are the ones that have been recruiting me the hardest. Most people think that’s my top 16, but those are just the ones recruiting me the hardest. It doesn’t matter what offense that I play in. I just want to be a threat in the offense and have a chance to play as a true freshman. I have no problem going anywhere in the country.”

Mixon visited nearby Cal for a junior day in March. When asked what schools he had followed growing up, he said, “I grew up watching Ohio State, Oregon and USC.”

In regards to these three schools, he said:

* Ohio State: “I like how they utilize their running backs. They have a great offense. They’re fast, they can do it all, they have a great running backs coach (Stan Drayton). Their coaching staff is a great group of guys. I’ve been getting to know a couple of their coaches and they are great guys. They are down to earth. They tell you what’s real.”

* USC: “Coach Kiffin is a cool guy. I like Coach (Clay) Helton a lot and Coach (Tommie) Robinson. They have a great staff there as well. They’ve been there a while. They have two good backs coming in as freshmen. That doesn’t affect my opportunity to come in and play because I am not afraid of competition.”

* Oregon: “Oregon has a fast-paced offense. They score a lot. Oregon had a great group of backs last year. I feel if I went there I would have a chance to come in and start. But I also know I have to have my body ready. I have to be ready physically and mentally.”

Mixon said he plans to take it all in. He could potentially announce his college choice at the U.S. Army game in January.

Click here for a highlight video of Mixon in action for Freedom High School.

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