SEBRING – Sebring’s Araion Mitchell never gave up despite dealing with a lot of adversity in his life. Mitchell worked hard on the field and in the classroom and it paid off Thursday as he signed a scholarship to play football at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I am very excited to be signing this scholarship,” Mitchell said. “Especially coming from where I come from. It is a blessing from God. This means everything to me. It’s a big stepping stone in my life.”

Johnson C. Smith University competes in Division II and the Golden Bulls are a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, which is an athletic conference mostly consisting of historically black colleges and universities.

Mitchell had six colleges looking at him, but feels he made the right decision.

“I decided to go to Johnson C. Smith because I loved the atmosphere,” he said. “I loved everything about it from the campus to the dorms to the uniforms everything about it made it a perfect fit. The coaches made me feel at home and they were friendly but I know all that will change once I get there.”

Mitchell’s on-field performance on the offensive and defensive lines spoke for itself. He said it was what took place off the field that was the most difficult.

“The biggest struggle getting to this point was my grades,” Mitchell said. “My mom, sister and coach (LaVaar) Scott have been my biggest support. My mom has always been there through everything and made sure I stayed in school and everything goes okay. I am feeling nervous because I have to leave my mom but I am excited to start this new chapter in my life.”

Mitchell’s mother had to step up and be both parents after the loss of his father.

“I am so excited, proud and overjoyed,” said Jearline Downs, Mitchell’s mother. “I am very proud that he got this scholarship. He is the first one leaving the nest and I will miss him while he is gone. I know he will do good. I am not really ready for him to leave but I know he has too so I have to let him be a man and step out on his own.”

Downs said she always stressed the importance of getting an education to her son.

“Keeping him off the corner because there is nothing but trouble up there,” she said. “His dad was the same way when he was living but we lost him in 2014 so I had to become the mother and the father. I kept that instilled in him and I see that he listened to me, so I am very proud of him. Araion will have to keep his mind focused at all times and when he feels like he is struggling he can go to his teachers. He can talk to them about anything but he will have to stay focused on what he is doing. I think he can get through it.”

Coach Scott is always delighted to see his players move on, but said Mitchell was a special young man who refused to give up.

“I am very proud,” said Coach Scott. “From his freshman year to his sophomore year it was one situation after another and he continued to fight and get around those obstacles. It is a pleasure to see him here today because his story is long. He had a death in the family, siblings doing different things, he had some issues with his grades and one time it was a lack of ability but he continued to work. He didn’t say ‘I don’t have the ability so I’m going to stop playing,’ he continued to work and took care of his grades.”

Coach Scott said Mitchell did the things he needed to do to get to college, but his work isn’t over. It’s only beginning.

“He will have to continue to focus academically and focus on the reason he is there,” Coach Scott said. “He will have to focus on the obstacles that he overcame to get there. Sometimes you can use your past to propel you forward, knowing the things that you didn’t want to deal with or go through to push you. He knows it is in him and he knows where he brought himself from before.”

Coach Scott said it’s Mitchell’s determination that will help him succeed in college.

“What makes him special is the path that he had to take,” Scott said. “He did not go around obstacles he went through them. Sometimes they knocked him down for a little bit but he kept pressing. His perseverance is what I love about him the most. Life threw some things at him and he did not let it stop him.”

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