Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen described Keith Mixon‘s spring as “unbelievable”.
During the Bulldogs’ three spring scrimmages, the redshirt freshman wide receiver hauled in 17 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns including a 36-yard score in the Maroon-White spring game.
Even as successful has he was on the field, the praise Mixon received from his head coach meant even more to him.
“Honestly, it’s good to hear that I’m improving,” Mixon said. “I redshirted so I’ve put in a lot of work. During the offseason they told me it was going to be real big for me to step up. I look up to Fred Ross and try to pattern my game after him.”
When Ross and fellow wideout Donald Gray went down with injury during the spring along with the dismissal of Fred Brown, it created even more of a chance for young receivers like Mixon to get more reps.
“It was a great opportunity because we were short on receivers,” Mixon said. “We are pretty young and we had to step up. Deddrick Thomas, Jonnas Spivey and myself, we all redshirted so it was good for us to step up and fill in some shoes since we were kind of short.”
It was during that redshirt year that the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder from Birmingham, Alabama spent honing his craft of becoming a more complete player.
“I’m glad I redshirted honestly,” Mixon said. “It’s everybody’s dream to come into the SEC and play right off the top. But there’s more to it. You’ve got to learn the playbook, read defenses and get your body physically and mentally ready because it’s a different game than coming straight from high school and playing against those players.”
At Shades Valley High School, Mixon was simply able to rely on his speed and athleticism to make plays. The former three-star all-purpose back amassed 5,124 all-purpose yards and 66 touchdowns over his final two seasons at the varsity level.
As a senior, Mixon eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau in both rushing and receiving. He carried 133 times for 1,085 yards and 15 touchdowns, caught 63 passes for 1,118 yards and 13 scores and even returned a kickoff 99 yards for another touchdown.
“I was a superstar back in high school and I had to start all the way down at the bottom when I got here,” Mixon said. “It gives me motivation to go even harder. I know the playbook better than when I first got here. At first, I really wasn’t feeling it but now that I know the offense I can really just play football and feel like myself again.”
Once Mixon has the receiver position down pat, he has his sights sets on becoming an even greater offensive weapon by shifting into the backfield some like he did in high school.
“Right now, coach Mullen just wants me to learn slot receiver,” Mixon said. “Then as I get older and more mature, I’m going to learn running back so they can motion me into the backfield. There will be some packages where I’ll motion into the backfield and run out of the backfield like Gabe (Myles) and Fred Ross.”
Mixon drew nine scholarship offers out of high school but feels he has been able to fully develop his game under the tutelage of Mullen and MSU wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales.
“I’m glad I chose Mississippi State, it’s a good fit for me,” Mixon said. “Coach Mullen and coach G really work with me. I wasn’t a great route runner coming out of high school. I could run slants and was just fast but now they’ve really worked on my route running, how to read defenses and have become a student of the game. I really like coach G and coach Mullen so I don’t regret it at all.”