by Rob Moseley
On his back, Terrance Mitchell has a tattoo of the cartoon character “Underdog.”
The image represents the mentality Mitchell says fueled his rise from three-star prospect out of high school, to freshman starter at Oregon, to honorable mention all-Pac-12 status as a sophomore. It will fuel him now, too, as Mitchell prepares for the 2014 NFL draft, having opted to pass up his final season of eligibility with the Ducks.
Mitchell, a junior from Sacramento, Calif., knows he’s less heralded than some other members of his draft class. That’s just another challenge the “Underdog” intends to overcome.
“Growing up always being under the radar, coming to Oregon as a three-star and then showing what I can do, that’s what my whole life has been,” Mitchell said Thursday evening. “I’m prepared for that. All I know is, when I sit down in front of the scouts, at the combine and what not, they’re going to see.”
Mitchell arrived in Eugene from Sacramento, Calif., in the spring of 2010, redshirted that fall and proceeded to start 38 of 40 games over the next three seasons. He led the Ducks with five interceptions and 12 passes defended in 2013, giving him seven career interceptions and 32 passes defended.
“I had a great four years there,” Mitchell said. “I just want to further my career at the next level, which is a dream of mine.
“I love Oregon, love everything about it. It wasn’t easy. But at the end of the day, I’ve been there for four years. We’ve been to three big bowls, won three big bowls in a row, accomplished a lot.”
Asked what he’ll miss most about Oregon, Mitchell immediately mentioned the fans, and playing in Autzen Stadium. He also thanked his coaches, teammates and the athletic treatment staff.
“The fans, leaving the stadium, that’s going to be something I miss,” Mitchell said. “But I’m a Duck for life, so I’m going to be able to come back and enjoy that.”
With half of Oregon’s junior cornerback tandem set to enter the draft, the question becomes, what will the other do? Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has yet to announce his decision, after being rated as a top prospect in media projections.
The deadline to declare is Jan. 15, and players then have three days to reconsider if they do not sign with an agent (Mitchell said his decision his final). Running back De'Anthony Thomas also has said he is considering early entry into this year’s draft.
Mitchell and Ekpre-Olomu provided a no-win situation for opponents once Ekpre-Olomu joined Mitchell in the starting lineup late in 2011. Based on Mitchell’s more established reputation at that point, foes avoided him in 2012, and Ekpre-Olomu reaped the statistical rewards; in 2013, the roles were reversed.
“I know my ability,” Mitchell said. “Whatever happens, I know somebody’s going to pick me up, and when they see me with all the other DBs around the country, they’re going to see. I’m very confident in my ability.”