WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — DaMarcus Mitchell started playing football at the age of four, and soon after, he was telling his dad it was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
His father, who played football at Thibodaux High School in Louisiana, never had the chance to play at the college level. But despite those shortcomings, he introduced Mitchell to the sport at a young age and has been one of his biggest supporters ever since.
Mitchell's dad even moved near West Lafayette for the opportunity to see every Purdue home game for the 2021 season.
"My dad was a hell of a football player. He was All-American, really all everything coming out of high school," Mitchell said. "So I feel that if my dad had the opportunity coming up, he would be somewhere big. I just want to continue to follow his footsteps."
Mitchell, now a senior, is entering his second season with the Boilermakers after transferring from Southwest Mississippi Community College. The speed of Big Ten football was something he wasn't quite used to last year, but he quickly adapted.
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Mitchell appeared in all six games for Purdue in 2020, including five starts. He managed to finish third on the team with 34 total tackles while also recording six tackles for loss, two pass deflections, one sack and one forced fumble.
"Coming out of junior college into my first Big Ten game, I had to adjust," Mitchell said. "Everybody was moving way faster. So now that I got that under my belt, I feel that this year coming up, it'll be way easier for me, and I'll be able to adjust to the game."
Mitchell is playing the LEO position on the Purdue defense, a defensive end/linebacker hybrid that allows him to utilize his speed and athleticism. In most cases, he'll operate on the opposite side of star defensive end George Karlaftis.
Together, the two players have the potential to be a potent duo along the defensive front. Mitchell said he loves his role and is ready to see how his work in the offseason pays off in the team's season opener against Oregon State.
"I'm on the edge — I'm free," he said. "So whatever comes to the short side of the field, I'm gonna stop it. Pass rush, setting the edge, making sure they're not running zones."
For every play Mitchell makes inside Ross-Ade Stadium during the 2021 season, his dad will be in the stands cheering him on. What Mitchell is accomplishing is something unprecedented in his family.
Mitchell said it was up to him to uphold the responsibility and break what he called a generational curse. It's what makes his dad so thrilled to see him play.
"If I'm being honest, it means a lot to him," Mitchell said. "He called me every day — he told me how proud he is because no one in our family has ever been in this position or made it this far."
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