By Rob Ludwig
Special to the Daily Sun
Tarlandus Mitchell does not start for the Navarro Bulldogs. And to be honest, he doesn’t really care.
Instead, the former three-sport star at Alto has already seen his share of glory and success. ‘Big bro’ as he is known by his Bulldog teammates because of his advanced age of 23, has won a state football championship when he was also named Class 1A Player of the Year, he pitched a no-hitter in leading the Yellowjackets to the quarterfinals in baseball and then he was selected by the Chicago Cubs and played four minor-league seasons.
So he’s already had a more successful athletic life than 98 percent of his teammates will ever see.
That’s why playing fullback is just fine with him, though he sees the field rarely and that’s usually for blocking purposes. That’s why he’s the field goal and point-after holder for kicker Carlos Macias. And when Navarro plays at Trinity Valley on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the SWJCFC championship game, you’ll see Mitchell on every coverage and return unit for the Bulldogs.
“Hey, I like winning and this is a winning program,” the sophomore said. “I’ll do whatever I need to do to put the team in a better position to win.”
Mitchell has been doing that for much the last 10 years. He was an all-state quarterback and defensive back for Alto, leading his team to the 2007 state title. He signed with Navarro that February to play football, but that all changed in June of 2008.
A 5-foot-9, 195-pound righthanded pitcher with a 96 mph fastball, Mitchell was selected in the 22nd round (671st player overall) by the Cubs.
Mitchell spent his first year in Rookie Ball and then spent the entire 2009 season at the Boise, Idaho Class A affiliate. Injuries and command issues continually hampered Mitchell, first a strained latissimus muscle and then a MCL tear in his knee. After splitting time between Boise and the Cubs instructional league team in 2010 and 2011, Mitchell left baseball and decided to pursue football once again.
“I knew Coach (Brian) Mayper from the first time I was recruited to Navarro, so I wanted to come here,” Mitchell said. “Baseball has always been my first love, but football is always been right there for me.
“It took me a week or two before I decided to leave baseball. I talked with all my coaches and my family before making a decision. It was a hard decision because I could never get healthy enough to pitch like I knew I could. But I made the right decision.”
Navarro welcomed Mitchell’s maturity and leadership capabilities from Day One. He quickly assumed the holder duties last fall as a freshman and he was part of a potent backfield, rushing for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Mitchell has since switched to fullback.
“(Mitchell) is a great kid,” Mayper said. “He’s a little older and a little more mature than the other players on the team.
“He’s a super kid who does a little bit everything for us.”
Although Mitchell may not participate in more than 20 plays in a game, he’s always attentive to what’s happening on the field. When you’re on the punt and kick coverage, punt and kick return, the holder for all kicks and an occasional fullback, you’d better be ready to dash on the field when needed.
“I’ve got to pay attention at all times so I know when I need to be out there,” said Mitchell, who is 18-4 as a Bulldog.
“It’s all about helping our team win. I made a good decision about coming to Navarro after baseball. It doesn’t matter what the coaches need me to do. I want to help this team win. That’s the most important thing of all.”