“Jakell was a great kid and a tremendous competitor,” Blackmon said. “He was probably one of the best football players I ever coached. He was always at his best when the game got toughest. Just an outstanding player to watch, a great kid to be around, just a real winner. He just had an edge to him and toughness about him that made him such a great player.”
That toughness showed up during his senior season when he could only sit and watch after injuring a knee during a summer 7-on-7 tournament. Working hard to try to get back on the field for the Bulldogs as they prepared for a playoff run, Mitchell dressed out against rival Auburn and never gave up the notion he was going to play for the Bulldogs again.
The same fight was apparent this fall as he worked hard on his craft as a tight end/H-Back for the Tigers and was a player Auburn was counting on to play significant snaps next season with the losses of C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse. Blackmon said Mitchell’s determination and energy is something he’s going to miss seeing on display.
“He was trying to get himself together where he could compete for a job through maybe even bowl practice or spring ball,” Blackmon said. “He was really trying to get himself back together so he could get in there and compete. That injury set him back, longer that he even probably expected that it would. He is just gone way too soon.”
A kid Blackmon watched grow up in his program and around Opelika, Mitchell’s death leaves a void in that community just like it does around the Auburn community and football program. Blackmon said “I love all my players and I treat everyone of them like they are my own kids,” Blackmon said. “When you lose one it just punches you right in the gut. That’s how this feels. You’re at a loss for words and you’re searching for answers. You go through all those things.
“This kid was special to our whole community,” he added. “He had such a platform about him because of his abilities. He had such a great impact on our community. There are a lot of young kids that watched him play and wanted to be just like him, and he’s got a younger brother that’s in that boat. This death is going to affect a lot of people in Opelika, Alabama.”