Jyran Mitchell currently leads the Pioneer Football League in rushing yards (689), rushing touchdowns (8) and average yards per rush (6.44). Photo by Claire Runkel.
JAKE KAUFMAN | SPORTS REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a few months ago, graduate student Jyran Mitchell was not sure that he would ever play football again. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Eastern Kentucky University in 2022 and had come off his best season as a collegiate athlete after spending the majority of his beginning years in school on the sidelines. He also had already transferred once, leaving Northern Illinois University after his third year.
However, after talking with his family, Mitchell decided to enter his name in the transfer portal knowing that he would find quality competition anywhere. Once he did, he immediately recognized the name of one of the coaches: Butler football head coach Mike Uremovich. Although he had other offers from NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools, the continuity and familiarity at Butler was something Mitchell wanted to be a part of.
“I had some bigger offers to some FBS schools, but it really didn’t feel like home,” Mitchell said. “I came to one of the spring practices and saw all of the coaches, coach [Alex] Barr, coach [Ray] Holmes, coach [Sean] Chase and coach Uremovich, and it made me fall back in love with all the people here.”
Uremovich recruited Mitchell to Northern Illinois where, at the time, he served as assistant coach and offensive coordinator. One of the main reasons that not just Mitchell, but many people in his class, ended up transferring from NIU was due to Uremovich and a number of other coaches leaving the program to go to Temple University.
“When coach U and coach Kerry and the whole staff left, my whole class really was slighted out of positions on the Northern Illinois team,” Mitchell said. “Pretty much my whole class ended up leaving, and then they actually helped me land at Eastern Kentucky.”
Another reason that Mitchell ended up transferring to Eastern Kentucky was the lack of opportunities on the field. The former Rich Central High stand-out quarterback redshirted his first year before spending the majority of his next two seasons on special teams. In his two years suiting up for the Huskies, Mitchell managed just two carries for -2 yards while playing the majority of his snaps on special teams, which was an adjustment for him. As someone who grew up playing quarterback and running back, barely touching the ball took some getting used to for him.
“When you’re throwing a ball as a quarterback, it’s always easy to scream at a man to catch the ball,” Mitchell said. “Now, because I know what it is like to do a lot of the dirty work to get the only ball three, four times a game if that, I have a newfound appreciation for receivers and the guys playing special teams.”
At Eastern Kentucky, Mitchell again switched his position to wide receiver, something that Uremovich acknowledged is not a small feat for a player.
“It’s not easy,” Uremovich said. “He’s a really good athlete. He was a high school quarterback, but it still takes time to make an adjustment like that.”
Mitchell was able to make the adjustments and had success at Eastern Kentucky. During his redshirt-junior season, he caught 20 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. He improved his numbers the next year, catching 18 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown.
That could have been the end of the football journey for Mitchell. In fact, he was convinced that it was the end, but the people around him encouraged him to continue.
“When I graduated from [Eastern] Kentucky, I initially wasn’t even going to enter the portal,” Mitchell said. “But I had to talk to my dad, I prayed to God, and then eventually, I decided to hit the portal, and then coach U and Butler came.”
Uremovich was very excited to have Mitchell as a part of his program again.
“I loved him when we recruited him at Northern as both a player and as a kid,” Uremovich said. “Our staff left for Temple after he had been there for a year, so we kind of lost touch with him. Him having the opportunity to play somewhere closer to home where he has some family made it a great fit for both of us.”
Mitchell was convinced by the coaches to switch back to running back, and the decision has paid dividends. Mitchell currently leads the Pioneer Football League in rushing yards (689), rushing touchdowns (8) and average yards per rush (6.44). As a team, Butler is also second in the Pioneer Football League in total rushing yards, which has helped the team get off to a 4-2 start.
Mitchell’s impact has gone well beyond the stat sheet. He was able to use his variety of experiences to make an immediate impact on the other players in the Butler locker room. Senior offensive lineman Jack Turner said Mitchell’s voice has been very important.
“Since he has moved around a lot, he knows the difference between good and bad programs,” Turner said. “He’s such a leader in the locker room, and on the field you can always count on him to be doing the right thing. You can follow his lead if you are not sure what you are supposed to be doing.”
Mitchell’s unique path to Butler is something he values. After all of the transitions throughout the last six years, being able to see his hard work pay off on a larger scale has been invigorating.
“Man, this is really a breath of fresh air because not too many college athletes got a story like mine,” Mitchell said. “All I can say is I waited my turn. I applauded on the sidelines, watching everybody else score touchdowns, and there’s not one time I hated on any of my teammates. But all I can say is, I waited my turn, and I am happy I am here.”