Mixon was suspended for the season before camp started following an off the field incident on his 18th birthday. He pled not guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was forced to sit out his true freshman season, unable to participate in any football-related activities.
Until now. Mixon will be in his first OU practice with pads Wednesday. His teammates know it’s going to be a special day for the former five-star running back from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom High.
“Joe is very energetic,” linebacker Eric Striker said. “He’s really ready to play. We don’t have pads on, but he really tried to knock me back on a block. He was blocking me.
“I know he’s ready, so when we get pads on, I already know what time it is. He tried to run a couple guys over. He’s really ready to go.”
Mixon was supposed to be the star freshman everybody would be talking about in OU’s backfield during the 2014 season. But after punching an OU coed in the face, plans quickly changed for all involved. Samaje Perine became the household name.
But running back is a spot where you can never have too many good players, never have an embarrassment of riches. One play, one injury is all it takes to force another huge change.
“It’s kind of hard to tell without pads, but as far as getting plays, he’s coming along pretty well,” Perine said. “Him and Rodney (Anderson). I’m excited to see what those two guys can do on Wednesday.”
Wednesday will mark OU’s first practice in pads as the Sooners continue to return to their normal routine. OU canceled two practices two weeks ago on the heels of a racial chant video that went viral by a former OU fraternity.
OU returned to the practice field Monday for the first time, and it’s obvious to his teammates Mixon is ready to make his mark on the field for the Sooners.
“It’s just like whatever you all love, you know what I mean,” Striker said. “You’re an artist, you’ve been out, you can’t wait to paint. Can’t wait to do what you do.
“You know how it is, man. You’ve been out of the loop for a year. Or like artists, you know, Jay-Z might take a year off. He’s ready. I love Jay-Z. He retired in 2004, then he came back. He missed it. He needed it. He can’t stay away from what he loves. That’s the same thing with Joe.”
Mixon returned to the spotlight during the last couple of weeks. The OU football team has made a strong stance on promoting awareness about racism and discrimination since the racial video was released.
Part of that has included wearing black practice jerseys. But others have pointed out OU didn’t take that same stance regarding Mixon, believing he should be expelled like the two students who were featured prominently in the racial video.
“Even to now he’s a different person,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “That incident is far gone, and we forgot about it. He’s obviously learned from it, and he’s definitely matured a lot. It’s helping him out, and it’s helped him taking a year off.”
Mixon is allowed to practice all spring with the team, but per terms of his suspension, he will not play in OU’s Red-White spring game April 11.