Written By Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
There are now 87 days remaining until the Indiana Hoosiers kick-off the 2016 season in Miami against the Florida International Golden Panthers. Join us each day for each part of our 100-day countdown to the opener! Currently, wide receiver Mitchell Paige is the number 87 for the Hoosiers.
Mitchell Paige (Redshirt Senior)
-Weight: 175 pounds
-Hometown: Carmel, Indiana
-Position: Wide Receiver
Underdog, Mighty Mouse, Sparkplug, Energizer Bunny, and Jack-of-All-Trades. There’s a plethora of pseudonyms you could think up for the playmaker from Indianapolis, but what’s most impressive about Mitchell Paige is how far he’s come since first landing in Bloomington, a story of humble beginnings. After a spectacular high school career at Guerin Catholic where he recorded 2,006 receiving yards, 965 rushing yards, 1,794 return yards and 37 total touchdowns, Paige joined the Hoosiers as a walk-on in 2012.
After a pretty uneventful first three seasons for the Hoosiers, which included a redshirt year, Paige burst onto the scene last fall. With Shane Wynn graduating and presumed starter J-Shun Harris II going down with an ACL injury in early summer workouts, the Hoosiers appeared be going back to square one at all three wide receiver positions. However, Paige quickly proved that he could more than hold his own against the Big Ten’s best, catching a team-high six touchdowns. His 57 receptions and 684 yards were second and third best on the team, respectively. However, his contributions were not limited to the offense, as he returned 18 punts for 199 yards with two touchdowns, resulting in an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten as a return specialist from the media.
There were numerous notable single game performances by Paige throughout the season. For starters, he caught a Pinstripe Bowl record 11 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown against Duke. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time ever against Rutgers, making eight catches for 126 yards. But it was when the team needed him most did he really step up. In must-wins against Maryland and Purdue he made a combined 10 catches for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
I guess you might say Paige grabbed the bison, Indiana’s unofficial mascot, by the horns in 2015 and took advantage of a golden opportunity. Despite matching up against defenders that easily outweighed him by 60-plus pounds or more and were every bit a half a foot taller than he, he crossed the middle without hesitation or fear. So while he may not possess the measurables of most Big Ten wide receivers, the size of his heart would undoubtedly be bigger than most.
He has so much energy and relentlessness, that if possible, you would bottle it up and give it to the rest of your players. His love for football is quite evident in how he conducts himself in practice, on the sidelines and during games. He has an unflappable sense of optimism as well. Even in the midst of the team’s six-slide last season, Paige remained adamant that they were headed in the right direction and they would turn the corner. His encouraging demeanor surely brought ease to the locker room.
As this fan favorite enters his final season in the Cream and Crimson, he will be playing a critical factor role both on the field and in the locker room, as one of the elder statesman in the program. On the field he will provide some sure-hands for the Hoosiers new quarterbacks to target and off-the-field he will be partly responsible for ushering along and further developing some of the younger guys in the program, particularly those who also work out of the slot.
The team will have a little more depth in the slot than they had last year, giving him adequate time for a breather, as Harris returns from injury, Isaac James is coming off of a redshirt season, and running backs Ricky Brookins Jr. and Mike Majette saw some action at the position during spring practice. Some incoming freshman will also get an opportunity to learn from Paige this fall as well, potentially Cole Gest.
For a player who joined the program as a walk-on in 2012 during fall camp to leading the team in touchdown catches, Paige certainly makes for a compelling story about overcoming the odds and making the most of every moment.
Share any memories or recollections you have of Mitchell Paige as a player in the comments section (or on the message boards) and be sure to come back to Hoosier Huddle each day during our countdown!