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Ex-Union star Mitchell voted top WR out of SW Virginia

Kevin Mays • May 17, 2020 at 3:00 PM

Virginia Tech junior James Mitchell is improving on the football field each season.

That’s pretty remarkable considering Mitchell was one of the top high school players to ever come through Southwest Virginia.

Mitchell’s efforts were recognized by social media voters this past week when the 2018 Union graduate was selected as the top receiver in far Southwest Virginia history.

“Being picked No. 1, that’s a huge honor, especially categorizing receivers and tight ends together,” Mitchell said. “There are some great names on this list that went on to do good things as well. So to be voted No. 1 in our area is really special to me.

“I believe it’s a testament to all the hard work I’ve put in to be a good player and, of course, my blessings from God.”

Mitchell was among the very few players to be named all-state all four years of his high school career.

In his senior season, he was named to the all-state first team at three positions. He also was the Region 2D offensive player of the year and the Region 2D defensive player of the year.

Mitchell started his senior year in 2017 at tight end but moved to quarterback the second week of the season after the Bears’ starting QB went down with an injury.

A running and throwing threat at quarterback, Mitchell rushed for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns, also throwing for three scores. He had 348 yards and four touchdowns receiving.

With the Hokies, Mitchell played several minutes in his freshman year primarily on special teams.

Last year as a sophomore, Mitchell started eight games for Virginia Tech, averaging 17.2 yards per catch with two touchdowns. He also had four rushing touchdowns in short-yardage situations.

“I’m really looking forward to this season whenever we get to play,” Mitchell said. “I had a decent year last year. I felt like I improved as the season went on.

“So I’m definitely looking forward to building off of that and seeing more improvement.”

Football’s spring practices were wiped out because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Mitchell said things are still happening for him and his Hokies teammates.

“Our strength and conditioning coaches have been sending us body weight workouts that you do if you don’t have access to equipment, so those have been good,” Mitchell said. “Also I have been working out with a trainer, Keith Davis, and he’s been good for me during the time I’ve been home.”

OTHER TOP PASS CATCHERS

Here’s a look at the other top vote-getters in the informal social media poll on wide receivers.

• Carroll Dale, J.J. Kelly — Arguably the most decorated athlete ever to come from Southwest Virginia, Dale’s high school career was a steppingstone for a gridiron career that includes induction into five halls of fame covering the high school, college and professional levels.

After dominating in the high school ranks, Dale graduated in 1956 and went to Virginia Tech, where he started every game except the first one over his four-year career.

The 1958 All-American led Tech in receiving for four straight years, averaging 17.8 yards per catch with 15 touchdowns.

Dale was drafted in 1960 by the Los Angles Rams and played five years in LA before being traded to Green Bay in 1965.

He played for the Packers until 1972 and was a part of the first two Super Bowl championship teams.

Dale played his final pro year for the Minnesota Vikings in 1973, which included another trip to the Super Bowl. This time Dale came out on the losing end against Miami.

• Aaron Fuller, Lebanon — One of the school’s best, Fuller helped lead the Pioneers to VHSL Class 1 Division 2 runner-up finishes in 1991 and ’92.

Fuller went on to a hall of fame career at Emory & Henry from 1994-97, during which the Wasps never lost a home game.

He hauled in 144 passes for 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns for E&H and twice made the All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference team.

• Mike Owens, Haysi — One of the top receivers in school history, Owens also did plenty of kicking for the Tigers as well as some during his freshman year at Virginia-Wise.

Owens was a starter all four years with the Cavaliers. He hauled in 65 passes for 1,506 yards and 11 touchdowns. He graduated in 1996.

A UVA Wise Hall of Famer, Owens holds the college’s career record for yards per catch at 23.1 and owns the mark for longest touchdown reception at 98 yards.

• Austin Fuller, Richlands — The 2007 all-state receiver was highly recruited. Rivals.com listed him as the 25th-ranked college recruit in Virginia and the 81st best wide receiver in the country his senior year. Fuller signed with Virginia Tech but later transferred to Southern Methodist.

Fuller was a star on both sides of the ball at Richlands, hauling in 15 touchdown catches and intercepting six passes in his senior season. During his junior year, he helped the Blue Tornado reach the VHSL Group AA Class 3 championship.

He owned school records of 114 career catches and 1,963 career receiving yards when he finished his Richlands career.

• Dakota Stanley, Haysi — Stanley broke multiple school records with the Tigers. The 2012 Haysi graduate set the record for career receptions with 165 and holds the single-game mark for receptions (17) and receiving yardage (304).

OTHER NOTABLES

Others receiving a notable number of votes were:

Mark Neely, J.I. Burton; Jason Sartin, Coeburn; Cary Perkins, Grundy; Luke Lawson, Eastside; Kory Bostic, Haysi; Casey Harman, Honaker; Browning Wynn, Lee High; Kyle Rivero, Marion; Jared Jackson, Andy Robbins, Nathan Tuck and Josh Warren, Powell Valley; Sean Overton, Rob Stanton and Bradley Strong, Richlands; Mark Harrison, St. Paul; Matt Muncy, Tazewell; and Raashaun Noaks, Union.

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