April 26, 2024   4 MIN READ

Throwback Cornerback

Loyalty – Wait, What? – Kept Mitchell At Toledo, Caught Birds' Draft Attention


It’s a word you don’t hear often anymore in the me-first world of college sports – loyalty.

Not with NIL and the transfer portal dominating college football and basketball headlines.

Not with athletes hopping from one school to another, from one paycheck to another.

Not with coaches fleeing their schools in the middle of the night, chasing even bigger bucks and higher power.

That’s what makes Quinyon Mitchell somewhat of a unicorn these days, at very least a throwback.

The cornerback taken 22nd overall by the Eagles on Thursday night – widely viewed as the NFL Draft’s No. 1 cornerback prospect – didn’t come from Alabama, Georgia, or Ohio State.

He didn’t even come from a Power 5 conference.

Quinyon Mitchell

GETTY IMAGES: Toledo product and new Eagles CB Quinyon Mitchell is the first MAC player drafted in the first round since 2017.

Mitchell laid his roots at Toledo, a Group of 5 school from the Mid-American Conference, which hadn’t produced an NFL first-round pick since 2017, when Western Michigan product Corey Davis – a wide receiver – went fifth overall to the Titans.

And guess what?

Mitchell actually spent his whole career at there, despite attempts by Power 5 schools to lure him, despite promises of NIL money to appease him.

Why didn’t the prospect who showcased 4.33 speed at the NFL Scouting Combine in February take the money and run going into his last year?

“So, just coming out of high school I had some grade issues and stuff like that, and Toledo just stuck with me through the whole process,” Mitchell said on a conference call with Philadelphia media. “Gave me a fair chance to play ball when nobody else wanted to.”

Instead of taking payments, Mitchell repaid Toledo by fulfilling a promise to the program.

Amazingly, he even said no to the most legendary figure in college football, shunning the portal even as Nick Saban was beckoning.

“So when the time came around, it was a no-brainer. I wasn’t going anywhere,” Mitchell continued. “I wasn’t leaving, no matter how much money or who came to offer. That’s why I went to Toledo and that’s why I stayed.”

The Eagles knew exactly what they were bringing in when they picked Mitchell at 22, a minor miracle in itself given projections from nearly every NFL personnel person that Mitchell wouldn’t get past 15.

Mitchell’s head coach at Toledo, Jason Candle, played football at Mount Union with Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. They’re close pals, and even coached together at Mount Union after their college days.

The Eagles had already known about Mitchell’s obvious talent.

From the Toledo staff, the Eagles understood the kind of person they were about to bring into their complex.

Toledo’s defensive backs coach told the New York Post that loyalty wasn’t Mitchell’s only throwback trait; Mitchell also demanded to be coached hard.

“He really had a great process,” said Howie Roseman, the team’s longstanding executive vice president of football operations, who for the first time in his near 15 years on the job used a first-round pick at cornerback.

Mitchell became the first cornerback taken by the Eagles in the first round since Lito Sheppard was picked 26th overall by the Eagles in 2002 – a 22-year span.

“And when you think about kind of his – he had a chance to transfer out of Toledo last year. He stayed there. He came back. He got better. He went to the Senior Bowl. He really checked the whole offseason process boxes one by one off, which is important.

“And obviously he’s got a lot to prove, as a small-school player. We understand that. We’ve had tremendous success with big schools, so to take a player like this from the MAC, he has to be special, and we think he’s a special person.”

Thursday wasn’t the first time Mitchell touted loyalty as his reason for sticking at Toledo.

It doesn’t appear to be “agent-speak” intended to warm him to a new audience, or to a city that’s known to heavily scrutinize its athletes.

At the Senior Bowl, in an interview with Inside The Birds, Mitchell insisted that “relationships” at Toledo were more important to him than anything a Power 5 program could use to tempt him.

“Everybody in that building, I love everybody in that building,” he said about Toledo. “Sometimes, relationships are bigger than other stuff, like money and stuff like that.”

Seems like it’s been decades since we’ve observed that level of loyalty from such a high-profile prospect at a small school.

It’s only fitting, though.

It’s been just that long since the Eagles took a corner in the first round.

– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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