Joe Mixon finally ready to make impact

Sooners running back returns to roster, stayed focused through suspension

A choice was on the table for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon after a split-second wrong choice.

Mixon was suspended from the Sooners for his freshman season in the aftermath of a late-night altercation with a fellow student.

One of the top running backs in the country – a five-star and the best out of the state of California – and the No. 18 overall prospect, Mixon was poised to make an immediate impact for the Sooners, who had a depleted running back core of unproven players.

He didn’t get a chance to make that immediate impact and had a major life decision: Stick with the Sooners or leave for another opportunity.

Mixon chose to stay and has been re-instated to the Oklahoma roster, likely to practice with the team and play in the spring game.

There’s still a chance for that immediate impact, just a few months later.

“He’s been like a caged tiger; I can tell you that,” Oklahoma running backs coach Cale Gundy said. “Whenever we cut that lock off that cage, my man came out running. He is a good player. He is extremely talented.”

Mixon has had plenty to do in order to see his name on the Oklahoma football roster once again. According to Gundy, he has done everything he was supposed to do.

Initially, Mixon was set out to be a part of the 2014 recruiting class. Now, it seem like he’ll be one of Oklahoma’s top recruits for the 2015 class.

Gundy still considers Mixon to be a “kid.” He’s still very young. Mixon accomplished everything that he had to do in order to play, and now, he’s finally starting to work with strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt – sort of like an early enrollee in the 2015 recruiting class.

“It’s a tough deal, but he did a tremendous job,” Gundy said. “He did very well in school. He was working out on his own, and staying up on that

“. . . . He’s still extremely impressive, but it takes a while for guys to get back into the shape that most guys are used to around here.”

While serving his suspension, Mixon wasn’t lost to time. He still took classes. He still spent time with his teammates. He still talked to Gundy almost every day, sharing topics of life – not necessarily football.

Gundy spoke to Mixon about going to class and doing the right things, hanging around with the right people.

One of those people during the 2014-15 season was 2015 safety commit Will Sunderland, who would visit the Norman campus from his home in Midwest City often.

Sunderland, Mixon and Michiah Quick would play video games on the weekend, becoming quite close over the course of the past few months. Even after the summer incident in the early hours of July 25, Sunderland never stopped talking with Mixon.

“Since Day 1, me and Joe Mixon have been like this,” Sunderland said, interlocking his fingers. “Since he got in trouble, it hasn’t stopped me from talking to him. I know he’s a good dude. Stuff happened, and hopefully, he’ll learn and probably get that starting running back next year.”

Sunderland isn’t the only one who has come away impressed with Mixon, who had 3,147 yards and 44 touchdowns in his final year in high school.

Gundy still knew that Mixon would be an immediate star. He just wasn’t always sure that Mixon would come back to Norman, making what Gundy saw as the right decision.

“I thought he’d stay, but again, it’s like recruiting, you always worry a little bit,” Gundy said. “. . . He knew that all of his goals and dreams were still here that he wants to achieve, and (he asked himself), ‘Why do I need to go somewhere else and do something else?’

“I think it’ll be fun to have him back out there running around. I know the players were excited that he’s been back in the full swing of things.”

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