Northwestern State receiver Jaren Mitchell set for return to Big Sky country
NATCHITOCHES – When Northwestern State Director of Athletics Kevin Bostian welcomed the Demon football team to campus on report day in early August, he asked the team a simple question.
“Who in here has been to Montana?”
Among the 100-plus NSU football players, a single hand went up – the right hand of wide receiver Jaren Mitchell. A newcomer to the Demons, Mitchell has been playing the role of travel guide as NSU prepares to open the season at No. 2 Montana at 2 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Saturday.
“I would say I have been warning the guys about the altitude,” said Mitchell, a Dallas native. “That’s definitely a big difference, especially coming from Louisiana and going to play in the mountains. It’s something we’re going to have to be able to run with when we get up there. At the end of the day, it’s a mental thing. As long as we go out there and do the things we need to do, just play fast, we won’t have to worry about it.”
A transfer from Northern Colorado who arrived in Natchitoches in time for spring practice, Mitchell is familiar with playing at elevated heights.
He spent three seasons at Northern Colorado, situated in Greeley, Colorado, elevation 4,765 feet. As a Bear, Mitchell’s road trips took him to highly elevated places like Flagstaff, Arizona (6,909 feet), Bozeman, Montana (4,793) and Pocatello, Idaho (4,462).
By comparison, Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana, sits at 3,209 feet above sea level.
“Leaving Dallas and going to Colorado was a huge adjustment for me,” Mitchell said. “It took me a couple of weeks to get adjusted to the altitude and elevation. Once I got a feel for it, when I went home to Dallas, there were advantages. I’m hoping I have some lung capacity built up from my trips to Montana and my time in Colorado.”
Mitchell never played at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, but he did face Montana State in Bozeman. He also played against Montana in a Northern Colorado home game, catching three passes for 21 yards against the Grizzlies.
Coupled with his newcomer designation in the Demon locker room, Mitchell’s visits to Montana give him a unique perspective as the Demons head toward Big Sky country Thursday afternoon.
For Mitchell, the change of coming back closer to home has added another layer to a college career in which he established Northern Colorado’s Division I freshman record for yards in game with 242 against North Dakota in 2019.
“Mentally, I’ve made a huge jump (since the spring),” he said. “I’ve overcome a lot of adversity in my time there (at Northern Colorado). I’m grateful for my time there, but coming here has helped me a lot – not just with football, but from the guys standpoint.
“I enjoy being around my teammates, especially around my position group. Here I can be myself – have fun, fly around and compete at the level I know I’m capable of. I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
Appropriately, the Demons have enjoyed the addition of Mitchell along with 30 more newcomers.
While head coach Brad Laird has praised his 50-plus returners for welcoming in their new teammates, Mitchell equally has made his impact felt.
“He’s been a huge addition to the room,” said first-year wide receivers coach Manny Harris. “He’s one of the biggest leaders on the team. He’s definitely a leader in the room. He came in the spring semester and, honestly, picked up the offense the fastest. He knows everything from all the receiver positions. I trust him with everything.”
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