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Bluejay becomes FLC Skyhawk

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Photo courtesy of Monica Roybal Branson Mitchell signs his National Letter of Intent to play

One of the most storied athletes in recent Mancos High School football history is moving onto the next level.

Like his brother before him, Branson Mitchell has committed to play football at Fort Lewis College in Durango.

"It'll be a great opportunity. I'll be close to home and it's a great school to go to for business," said Mitchell, who will major in business and become a gunsmith and gun shop owner after graduating college.

Mitchell will be on athletic scholarship and has a chance to earn more scholarship funding throughout his gridiron career at FLC. Mitchell will likely redshirt his true freshman season for first-year FLC coach John L. Smith, who has been head coach at NCAA Division-I powers Louisville, Michigan State and most recently Arkansas.

Mitchell was initially recruited by Skyhawks offensive line coach Bill Griffith and defensive coordinator Ed Rifilato. The coaches' straightforward approach won Mitchell over.

"They weren't trying to sell anything. They just told me 'I can go anywhere I want to go. Be happy,'" he said. "I really liked that. I liked the attitude about it, the whole outlook of it."

Mitchell was also being recruited by Western State College in Gunnison. But the Mancos superstar felt more wanted and at home in Durango.

"I did a tour of the school and I really like it up there. It's homey," said Mitchell about the NCAA D-II college that is a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Mitchell leaves behind a legacy at Mancos that included a monster senior year. The running back rushed for 2,152 yards, which was the sixth most in the state last season, and scored 19 touchdowns for the 8-man school. Mitchell's signature game came on Sept. 21, at Nucla where he rushed for a staggering 401 yards on 37 carries and scored six TDs. For the season, Mitchell averaged an eye-popping 9.2 yards per carry and 239 yards a game. Mitchell did it on defense, too, recording the second most tackles in Colorado last season with 185. He snared two interceptions and recovered one fumble at linebacker.

Mitchell did it all for first-year Bluejays coach Adam Priestley.

"I'm excited that Branson was able to sign with a college. He's a great kid," coach Priestley said. "It's a step up, and there's a lot of trials and obstacles that he's going to have to get through. I think he has the ability to do that. We're going to miss him."

The FLC coaches are looking to possibly transform Mitchell into a wide receiver or linebacker by getting him bigger, stronger and faster.

"All I'm looking for is a chance to play. I don't care where," said Branson, who is the son of Blake and Melodie Mitchell. "(Coach) Smith said I have the frame to build big and maybe be a defensive linebacker."

Mitchell is listed at 6-feet, 200 pounds, and is a three sport letter athlete at Mancos. He will graduate from MHS in May and suit up for the Skyhawks this coming fall.

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