Maurice Mitchell always seems to be smiling.
Now, the Raytown South High School senior runner has plenty to smile about, as he recently made a verbal commitment to attend Florida State University.
Mitchell, the 2007 Missouri Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year, won gold medals at the Missouri State Track and Field Championships in the 100, 200 and 400 and set state marks in the 100 (10.42 seconds) and 200 (20.96).
He was also The Examiner's Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"I know you probably get tired of me calling you about Maurice, but he just had one of those special seasons that don't come along very often," South sprint coach Tom Lester said. "That's why I wanted to call and let you know that Maurice has committed to Florida State - which won the NCAA track and field championship the past two years. It's a perfect fit for Maurice. And he's going to be a part of one of the greatest programs in the nation."
When Mitchell, his father and Lester visited Florida State, one of the first thing the Cardinals senior noticed was "those huge rings all the track guys were wearing. I told them I had to get one of those."
Lester laughed at Mitchell's comment.
"Their sprint coach, Ken Harnden, told Maurice, 'Signing you will help us get another championship ring. You're who we wanted all along.' "
Mitchell ran the fastest high school 100 (10.26) in the nation as a junior, in winning the event at the Kansas Relays. After that accomplishment, he became the most sought after recruit in the nation.
"My phone rang all the time," Mitchell said, "and some of those coaches called pretty late. The best thing about making a commitment was telling Coach Harnden that I was coming to FSU.
"The hardest part was calling all the other coaches back and telling them I wasn't coming to their school. And that's tough after they fly you to their school and treat you so nice. I couldn't get a hold of all the coaches, so I had to e-mail some of them.
"But they all know now that I'm going to FSU, so hopefully that will cut down on the time I spend on the phone."
"As good as he is right now, his best days are ahead of him," Lester said. "I don't know how good he can be and I don't think Maurice knows, either. But I know this. Maurice is a team player, and he was impressed by the team atmosphere and the family atmosphere at Florida State."
Added Mitchell: "My daddy and I were on the same page on all our trips. We went to LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas Tech and made an unofficial trip to Nebraska.
"All those schools and all their coaches made us feel welcome, but Florida State made us feel like we were a part of their family."
That's why he will be headed to Tallahassee, Fla., following his senior season.
This story was orginally publushed in The Examiner.
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