Roscoe football star changes heart, opts for Marines Corps over college football

By Jeff Wick
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Even as Britt Mitchell was packing to leave the University of Oklahoma last week, his Sooners football teammates were unpacking his things, trying to make him stay.

"A couple of them said I was making a mistake," Mitchell said. "But I don't think serving your country is a mistake."

This spring Mitchell, a star lineman from Roscoe High School, was the only player in Texas from a Class 1A high school (the state's smallest 11-man classification) to sign a scholarship with a D-I football program.

He is huge, a towering 6-foot-8 and weighing in at more than 300 pounds.

Mitchell had every college recruiter in the country drooling over him. He chose Oklahoma and even passed up his final semester at Roscoe to enroll early at OU and go through spring football workouts with the Sooners, a team that many are picking to contend for a national title this fall.

But on June 10, the day after his 19th birthday, Mitchell left behind the full scholarship to OU and the fame of being a football star at one of the country's most successful programs to join the Marines.

His teammates couldn't understand why.

Mitchell tried to put it to them as simply as he could.

"I told them I'm an American first and a Sooner second," Mitchell said.


The military has always interested Mitchell.

His family tree is dotted with soldiers. His father was in the Navy and he had a great-uncle in the Marines.

Mitchell figures since he was about 12 years old, he's dreamed of being in the Marines too.

He and high school teammate Roman Mendez talked often about enlisting when they graduated.

But when you're as big as Mitchell, college football recruiters find you long before anyone from the military does. Even if they have to come to Roscoe (population: 1,300) to do it.

The football scholarship offers, who was selected all-state in 2007, seemed too good to pass up.

That call to serve his country never went away, however.

The first day he met his academic adviser at OU, Mitchell asked about joining the Reserve Officer Training Program at the school.

That wasn't available to football players, he was told. There wasn't time for both.

But when Mitchell talked earlier this year with his cousin Chase, a member of the Arkansas National Guard who had been deployed to Iraq, the long-lingering interest in the military was sparked anew.

"He's like a brother to me. He inspired me, and he's not even in the Marines. He's in the Army," Mitchell said. "He's over there (in Iraq) driving a tank right now."

Mitchell stayed at OU through spring workouts, came home for a three-week summer break, then returned to Norman for more workouts earlier this month to give football one final chance.

"My heart wasn't in it," Mitchell said.


The Oklahoma coaches, Mitchell said, told him they hated to see him go and wished him well when he told them he was leaving.

"They weren't rude about it," Mitchell said.

"He has the coaching staff's full support in pursuing something that has been attractive to him for some time," OU sports information director Kenny Mossman told the Oklahoma City newspaper.

Mitchell was more worried about what the folks back home in Roscoe would think.

"I felt kind of bad because I felt like I was letting my town down," Mitchell said. "But my coach (Wes Williams) told me they were behind me 110 percent."

Since he left OU, Mitchell had been staying in Keller, at the Armed Forces Career Center, where his preparation for basic training is every bit as tough as college football workouts. He expects to officially "swear in" with the Marines on Monday, then be transferred to San Diego.

"OU football was tough," Mitchell said. "They pushed me to my limits, and this is pushing me to my limits, too."

His first day at the AFCC he ran three miles in a "sauna suit" to help him strip away some of his excess weight.

All those pounds were great for a lineman, but not a soldier. He said he's lost 25 pounds in the past week and a half through running and biking.

He's never felt better.

Mitchell knows the challenges ahead of him are daunting. He has just gone from playing games on a football field to preparing for the field of battle.

It's not a sacrifice most people would make or even something those close to him, family and friends, have all been comfortable with.

"It's something I needed to do," Mitchell said.

Jeff Wick is a sportswriter for the Standard-Times. His column appears every Sunday. Contact him at jwick@gosanangelo.com or (325) 659-8259.

Ellie