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Football: A new chapter for Kennedy's Mitchell

Trojan running back celebrates signing to play for Portland State Vikings

PHIL HAWKINS - Kennedy High School senior running back Bishop Mitchell signed his letter of intent on Feb. 1 to play for the Portland State Vikings football team next season. 
One of the most decorated football players in John F. Kennedy High School history signed his letter of intent last week to play Division I collegiate football. Running back Bishop Mitchell, the 2016 2A Offensive Player of the Year and career rushing and scoring leader for the Kennedy Trojans, committed to play for the Portland State Vikings for the 2017 season.

Mitchell made his commitment during an assembly at JFK High School on Feb. 1 in front of friends, family and classmates, putting to paper what the senior running back had verbally committed to last summer after visiting the Vikings' campus for a training camp prior to his senior season.

"Pretty much the whole month of June I was checking the campus out," Mitchell said. He was able to meet the PSU coaching staff during his visit and was impressed with his future coaches. "They're good people. They're kind of similar to the coaches here, personality-wise."

In addition to earning a full athletic scholarship, Mitchell decided on Portland State due to its proximity to his home in Mount Angel, giving him the opportunity to stay in touch with friends and family in the region.

"I like this college because it was in the area and my family is close," Mitchell said. "That's the most important, they can come out to the games."

Portland State will be getting a running back who was able to pack a lot of punch into a relatively small frame. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound back finished his career at Kennedy with multiple school records, including career rushing yards (4,797), career points (438), rushing yards in a season (2,217), rushing yards in a game (353), longest punt return (96 yards) and most career interceptions (15).

During Mitchell's mercurial senior season, he rushed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in every game, gaining 2,217 yards and 29 on the ground to go along with 272 receiving yards and five more touchdowns on receptions, defense or special teams.

"I think he's the sleeper of the class," Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum said. "He's Portland State's Barry Sanders. He committed early. I tell you what, the kid's going to be special."

PHIL HAWKINS - Mitchell was named 2A Offensive Player of the Year following his senior campaign with the Trojans, where he set the school's single-season rushing record and scored 34 touchdowns.
Mitchell was a three-time First Team all-league running back, two-time league Offensive Player of the Year, two-time First Team All-State running back and was named the 2A State Offensive Player of the Year in 2016. He also earned First Team all-state and all-league honors on the defensive side of the ball his junior season.

During his tenure as the Trojans' feature back in 2015 and 2016, Kennedy went 20-4 overall and qualified for the state semifinals in back-to-back years, advancing to the state championship game in 2015 for just the fourth time in school history.

In addition to his credentials on the football field, Mitchell also was a First Team all-league basketball player and a four-time medalist in the state track and field meet in 2016.

Panuke chalked up Mitchell's success not simply due to his impressive physical talent, but by having the drive and commitment to dedicate himself fully to the sports that he loves.

"In four years at Kennedy, I don't think he missed a practice, a summer weight training session," Panuke said. "It's not very often when you get a quality individual like Bishop. He had a dream and he accomplished it. Obviously a guy to look up to."

Mitchell joins a Portland State team that appears on paper to be tailor made for his skills as a quick, athletic running back who can squeeze through holes and make quick cuts upfield for big gains.

The Vikings are coming off of their second season under Barnum, who was named FCS National Coach of the Year in his first year with Portland State in 2015 for leading the team to a 9-3 record and a top-10 ranking.

Portland State regressed a bit this year, going just 3-8 overall, but Barnum has made a name for himself with the Vikings as an offensive guru when he came on board as offensive coordinator prior to the 2010 season.

The team's offense improved every season under Barnum, averaging 355.2 yard per game prior to his hiring and capping out in 2013 when the Vikings set school records for total offense (6,486 yards), offense per game (540.5), rushing offense (3,330), rushing offense per game (277.5) and rushing touchdowns (36).

Since Barnum took over as head coach, the Vikings have doubled down on the ground game, running the ball 66 percent of the time last season and a whopping 71 percent of plays in Portland State's breakout 2015 season.

Mitchell got to know Barnum and his staff and felt comfortable with his future coaches, a sentiment echoed by his current coach at Kennedy.

"They're a very nice coaching staff," Panuke said. "They care a lot about Bishop and his future, academically what he's interested in and where he feels comfortable. They didn't put a lot of pressure on him to make his decision. They seem like a quality group of coaches."

Mitchell plans to study sports medicine at Portland State and could have a chance to make an immediate impact on the football field next season, with the team's three leading rushers — quarterback Alex Kuresa and running backs Nate Tago and Paris Penn — set to graduate this spring.

"It feels good," Mitchell said. "It's a new chapter."

Phil Hawkins covers sports and all things Gervais. Contact him at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


PHIL HAWKINS - Mitchell rushed for 431 yards and seven touchdowns in three playoff games this season, helping Kennedy advance to the 2A state semifinals for the second consecutive year.

Bishop Mitchell

Running back, John F. Kennedy High School

2016 Season

Rushing Yards: 2,217

Receiving Yards: 272

Touchdowns: 34


- 2A Offensive Player of the Year

- Tri-River Conference Offensive Player of the Year

- First Team all-state running back

- First Team all-league running back

- Second Team all-league defensive back