Going from walk-on recruit to star player is a very rare feat in college football, but the odds of it happening are even longer when that player stands at 5-foot-7 and 180-pounds. Indiana wideout Mitchell Paige may not look like one of the best receivers on arguably the best passing offense in the Big Ten, but that is exactly what he is because of the work he has put in since the day he arrived in Bloomington.
Paige said that even though he may not have the physical gifts that many other players at his position have, he believes the gifts he does possess are more than enough for him to succeed.
“I think my gift is I work harder than anyone I have ever met,” Paige said. “I will put the way that I work up against anybody else, whether it is film room, weight room, on the field. I’m going to outwork you and that is why I am going to be better than you. Whether you have all the talent in the world or no talent, I am going to study my film, study my plays and I’m going to know everything better than you. That is the way I’ve been since I’ve gotten here. The only way I get to play is if I’m that way. If I was just kind of a guy there is no way I would have ever saw the field. So it’s been good for me to see that my hard work when no one was really watching did pay off.”
Nick Westbrook is roommates with Paige and he said that he has seen firsthand the kind of dedication Paige has on a daily basis to be the best player he can possibly be.
“I am his roommate along with Luke (Timian) and from being around him I can say that he really cares and that is the biggest thing,” Westbrook said about Paige. “This is really all he is about and that is playing Indiana football and Big Ten football. He always talks about how this is his dream and he has worked so hard to get where he is at right now and he’s not going to do anything to mess it up. He is going to go to bed an hour early just to get that extra hour in. He is always the first one here (football stadium). I will hear him leave 10 to 15 minutes before me because I will hear the door close and I realize how much he cares because of how early he is getting up. He has that heart factor.”
Indiana offensive coordinator Kevin Johns has also noticed how hard Paige works at his craft, and the IU assistant said when Paige got his shot to play he took full advantage of it.
“Mitchell Paige studied film and his technique harder than anyone,” Coach Johns said about Paige. “He spent a ton of time just watching Shane Wynn film and learning how Shane did things. He was very patient and he worked hard and when he got his turn he made the most of it.”
IU head coach Kevin Wilson said that while Paige might not be the biggest guy around as far as stature, he does possess physical ability that has enabled him to be a quality Big Ten wide receiver.
“He's a heck of an athlete,” Wilson said about Paige. “He's a tremendous golfer. I think a couple years ago he scored like 46 in an intramural basketball game. He's a really good athlete.”
Paige never thought twice about coming back for his fifth season with the Hoosiers, and he said if there was a way to come back for a sixth year he will be the first one in line to do it.
“I love to be here so the thought of not coming back never crossed my mind,” he said. “I was telling somebody else that if there was a sixth year option I would take it. I grew up in Indiana and I grew up an IU fan and I love playing here and I love putting on this jersey. This is my favorite place in the world. I know that is the Hoosieriest Hoosier answer ever, but I really do mean it when I say I love this place and would do anything for this school.”