Sept. 8, 2010
Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell owns an 18-0-1 record, including 12 knockouts. (Photo by Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos.com.
By Katie Koerner
More than seven years after his final football game in Spartan Stadium and some 630 miles from East Lansing, former MSU linebacker Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell carries his Spartan pride as if he still resides on campus. While the venue Mitchell competes in has changed drastically, it is his Spartan attitude of pure dedication and unwillingness to lose that has remained the same.
Originally from Brandywine, Md., the ex-football player turned professional boxer even battles in Spartan green with the number 48 on his shorts, the same number that was embroidered on his football jersey. After only his second fight, Mitchell signed with boxing powerhouse Golden Boy, and in less than three years in professional boxing, Mitchell has already tabulated an impressive 18-0-1 record, including 12 knockouts and a 15-match winning streak.
Long before Mitchell found success in the boxing ring, he was ranked as one of the nation's top linebackers out of high school. Recruited by current head coach, Mark Dantonio, Mitchell became one of MSU's most highly touted linebackers.
Known as a ferocious run stopper with a hard-hitting reputation, he was attracted to the Big Ten's smash-mouth style of play.
"When I was being recruited I developed a great rapport with Coach Dantonio," Mitchell said. "I felt like he was really being honest and sincere with me, and that's why I chose Michigan State."
Unfortunately for Mitchell, the big-hit specialist suffered a left knee injury his first season in East Lansing that resulted in ligament and bone damage so severe that bone from his hip was taken in repair.
After a series of surgeries and a medical redshirt in 2001, Mitchell had to sit out the first five games of 2002 with inflammation in his knee. He did work his way onto the field during the second half of the season, playing in six games, including five starts, while recording 29 tackles.
Following another off-season of heavy therapy and conditioning, things began to look up for Mitchell as he entered the 2003 season. As a redshirt sophomore, Mitchell quickly made his presence on the field felt. Literally. Mitchell recorded 103 tackles during that season and led the team with 85 in Big Ten play--averaging 10.6 per game. He was also second on the team in defensive production points with 154, even though he sat out two games early in the season. Mitchell compiled 15 tackles against both Michigan and Wisconsin and pulverized Ohio State ball carriers with a career-high 17 tackles, including two for losses.
With what seemed like another promising two years of eligibility and unlimited opportunities to come, Mitchell entered his junior year as a preseason All-Big Ten selection and was expected to lead the Spartan defense. Due to soreness and injury, however, Mitchell was forced to the sideline once again and sat out the first two games of the 2004 season. Former head coach John L. Smith announced that what was left of Mitchell's football career was once again in doubt. After a total of seven operations and extensive rehab, Mitchell had run out of options. He announced that his football career was over prior to the start of the 2005 season.
"It was so hard to make that decision but I knew I had done everything in my power and ability to try and compete at that level," Mitchell said. "Of course I wish I could have continued my football career, but I was able to walk away without any regrets or bitterness."
In his last fight, Mitchell recorded his 15th-straight victory with a knockout of Derek Bryant in just 1:45 on July 31 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos.com.
With his football career officially over, Mitchell was at peace leaving MSU not only as an athlete but as an MSU alumnus as well. In four years, Mitchell completed his bachelor's degree in criminal justice, something he credits to the competitive nature athletics installed in him.
"I knew a lot of people thought I wasn't going to graduate so I took that as a personal challenge and I got my degree," Mitchell said. "There are a lot of athletes who only rely on their athletic talents, but no matter what venue you compete in, you always have to have something to fall back on."
Once a standout linebacker in a Division I collegiate program, Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell soon realized he had more than his diploma to fall back on. Upon returning home to Maryland, Mitchell watched former Notre Dame safety and current Baltimore Raven Tom Zbikowski box in his professional debut on television.
"He got my competitive juices flowing again and I thought to myself, if he can do that, so can I," said Mitchell.
From there, Mitchell enlisted the help of his former high school football coach Maurice Banks and boxing trainer Andre Hunter to help kick start the next step in his athletic career and the next chapter of this life--becoming a professional heavyweight boxer.
"It took about two weeks for me to see what I was working with," Hunter said. "With his speed and his power he was knocking down pro boxers when he was still an amateur. I have never seen anything like it."
After spending much of his life on the gridiron, Mitchell made the unique transformation from one of the most team-oriented sports to one strictly individual.
"In team sports sometimes not everyone is on the same page," he said. "Even though you are doing your part, everyone else may not be doing theirs. But in boxing, if I get tired, it's because I didn't put my road miles in or didn't train hard enough."
"In football, everyone called me a bruiser and I loved the contact and the combat of the sport. All of that translates very well into boxing."
-Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell
For Coach Banks, the ease of Mitchell's transformation came as no surprise.
"Everything he has ever done, he has done with passion and a hatred to lose, so it's like an instinct for him," Banks said. "Though he played a team sport, he prepared himself individually each week. Now, there are not 11 guys around him, but he still prepares like he always has."
Mitchell admits it has taken a lot of hard work, but due to his disciplined personality and focused demeanor, he said it was easier for him to make the transformation than the average person.
"In football, everyone called me a bruiser and I loved the contact and the combat of the sport," Mitchell said. "All of that translates very well into boxing."
Along with a new sport also came new challenges regarding Mitchell's training and workout routines. Instead of bulking up with serious weight lifting as most linebackers do, Mitchell's training has shifted into doing more calisthenics and into polymetric based workouts.
"I was already bulked up from my football background, so I had to focus on keeping my muscles elongated so I wouldn't get tired in the ring as quick," Mitchell said.
Whatever he is doing must be working. In his most recent bout on July 31, Mitchell dominated competitor Derek Bryant at The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Only 1:45 into the first round, Mitchell recorded his 12th career knockout with a series of left hooks wreaking havoc on Bryant's body.
But Mitchell's impressive resume does not stop there. While spending his days vying for the next heavyweight boxing title, Mitchell's true joy comes from being a father and spending time with his three-year-old daughter, Ariel. Mitchell and his wife have mastered a daily schedule with family at its core. Everyday Mitchell wakes up around 4:30 a.m. to start his six-mile morning run. Upon his return, Mitchell's wife begins her busy day of work and law school while Mitchell is able to treasure a morning of father-daughter time.
"I make (Ariel) breakfast and we get to eat together and play around the house," Mitchell said. "She is my princess and very special to me. I love being a parent. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
During a typical summer afternoon leading up to his July 31 fight, Mitchell's wife returns home in time for him to head off to his second workout of the day at the Dream Team Boxing Gym in Clinton. He spends hours inside the gym, training so relentlessly sweat sprays from his shoes as he bobs and weaves back and forth.
After another day of rigorous training on a hot July day inside what most people would consider a garage, Mitchell admits that the hardest part about boxing isn't the workload or the physical demand on his body; instead, it's the loneliness.
"I miss the team camaraderie that's a part of football," Mitchell said. "I miss being able to slap fives when someone makes a good play."
Along with waiting to hear the words "...and the new heavyweight champion is Seth `Mayhem' Mitchell" to ring in his ears, Mitchell has another goal he is waiting to accomplish - being featured in a boxing match inside the Breslin Center on campus.
"It would be crazy," he said. "After I win, I would screen "go green!" and everyone else would scream, "go white!" It's something I hope to make happen and think everyone would enjoy."
Although several aspects of his life has changed since his time at MSU, Mitchell said he has vivid memories of the traditional game-day walk from the Kellogg Center to Spartan Stadium still fresh in his mind. Now, next to his family on his couch, Mitchell watches Greg Jones at the linebacker position smash opponents on the field just as he did seven years prior.
"I am so thankful for what God has given me," Mitchell said. "Some good things are happening right now. I feel so blessed and am just excited for the future."
This feature was originally published in the Sept. 4 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.