Deciding he wanted to help build a new football program, rather than be part of an established one, Kahlil Mitchell put an end to his recruiting process Thursday afternoon. South Pittsburg's all-state running back and linebacker committed to East Tennessee State University, which won't renew its program until the fall of 2015.
"It seemed like a really good fit for me," Mitchell said. "They have my specific major, and on the field it'll be a great chance for me to play early.
"They kept making a push and letting me know just how much they wanted me, and that meant a lot. They're building something special, and I want to be a part of it."
Mitchell, who said he will major in exercise science and plans to become an athletic trainer after his playing career, was also being recruited by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech, Wofford and The Citadel.
The 6-foot, 205-pound three-year starter was the Pirates' second-leading rusher with more than 1,550 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging more than 8 yards per carry, and also was the team's second-leading tackler with 77 stops and two sacks. He was recruited by ETSU coaches to play outside linebacker.
In South Pittsburg's Class 1A semifinal win at Coalfield, with Mr. Football running back Jajuan Lankford slowed by an ankle injury, Mitchell ran for a career-high 283 yards and five touchdowns.
ETSU discontinued its football program following the 2003 season, but last spring the university's administration voted to bring back the sport as a member of the Southern Conference. This year will be the Buccaneers' first signing class, with veteran college coach Carl Torbush as their head coach. Torbush previously coached at North Carolina and Louisiana Tech and has been an assistant at Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi Sate, Texas A&M, Kansas and North Carolina.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Kahlil," South Pittsburg coach Tim Moore said. "This will give him the chance to adjust to the college level for a year, get stronger and develop and be ready when they start playing games in a year.
"The thing that stood out to me about Kahlil is his desire to be a good player and his work ethic. I think it's a good fit for both sides."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.