Former Desert Pines wide receiver Jaden Mitchell wasn’t supposed to sign his national letter of intent until 2 p.m. Wednesday — the first day of the early football signing period.
But he had committed to Arizona 600 days ago, and his mother, Allison White, simply couldn’t wait any longer.
So she woke up him at 7 a.m. on behest of the university’s recruiting coordinator, and Mitchell finally put pen to paper.
“Today is just a blessing,” White said as she fought back tears. “Seeing his dreams start to come to life and seeing the smile in his face again and his eyes again … we’re starting to do big things.”
Mitchell, who committed to Arizona in April 2017, tore his ACL in August in the first game of his senior season and was forced to grayshirt despite graduating from Desert Pines a semester earlier. But the Wildcats honored his commitment and their scholarship offer — albeit one year later — and he’s starting classes at Arizona in January.
“I’m excited, anxious and eager,” said Mitchell, a 5-foot-11-inch, 183-pounder. “I’m just ready to get to work.”
Mitchell, then of Desert Oasis, began earning collegiate interest during his sophomore and junior seasons and committed to Arizona over Hawaii and UNLV. He transferred to Desert Pines for his senior season and was preparing for a breakout season for the Class 3A state champion Jaguars.
But he tore his left ACL on a punt return in the third quarter, effectively ending his season before it began.
“We were really excited for him to have a big year,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “It was tough to see a kid who loves football so much go down his senior year in the first game.”
Mitchell had surgery two weeks after the injury, but sustained nerve damage and couldn’t walk for several weeks. His rehabilitation included the relearning of simple movements, such as walking up and down stairs.
Football was suddenly an afterthought.
“We thought it was just over for him,” White said. “We didn’t know how anything was going to play out after that.”
But Arizona reassured Mitchell that its offer still stood, even after the firing of then-coach Rich Rodriguez, whose staff recruited Mitchell.
And after the hiring of Kevin Sumlin, whose staff stayed loyal to Mitchell.
“Once they got the new coaches, I got a verbal confirmation that I was good,” Mitchell said. “They know I’m ready to go, and there’s no other recruiting that really needs to be done.”
Mitchell, who said he’s bigger, faster and stronger than before the injury, has spent the past several months training six days a week — for three or four hours a day — with Tysson Poots, a former Coronado standout and NFL wide receiver who now is a trainer.
National signing day was no exception. After signing in the morning, Mitchell met Poots for a 10 a.m. workout.
“The first couple days I worked with him, he was 100 percent into what I was talking about,” Poots said. “His progress has been amazing. … You wouldn’t be able to tell (he got hurt). That’s the good thing. Now, when it comes to going against somebody and putting the pads on, that’s when we’re going to find out.”