Former Bulldog Aaron Mitchell makes pro career with Legion
The Fresno State Bulldogs’ last two seasons have put several players in position for NFL careers, but one former ‘Dog has moved onto the next level at an entirely different sport.
Former Fresno State center Aaron Mitchell started 38 consecutive games during his Bulldog career from 2014 to 2017. Now he is making a professional career out of another sport he played in high school – rugby. Mitchell plays for the San Diego Legion of the MLR (Major League Rugby). The Legion finished as runner-ups in the nine-team league that plans to grow to 12 in 2020.
Mitchell followed the Bulldogs on the football field for many games in 2018’s 12-2 season both home and away as a fan in the crowd. While he wished he could have been on the field to contribute to the Mountain West Championship, moving onto professional rugby has been a lifelong dream come true.
“I’m living my best life having a good time playing rugby,” Mitchell said. “Your dream as a kid – all you want to do is play a professional sport and get paid for it. All you want to do, right, when you’re growing up playing sports. There’s a pathway to go play in the NFL or NHL or whatever. And I’ve hit it. I’m on the pathway and playing a professional sport. I’m getting paid to play a sport and I love it.”
For Central Valley spectators who may not be as familiar with the sport, Mitchell said, “Honestly, the easiest way to explain it is: just go to a game. Find somewhere, go to a game and you’ll understand why it’s so exciting and why it’s so fun to play … It’s just as exciting as watching a football game. But I would say even more exciting because you get to see the big fellas run with the ball.”
Fresno State fans saw Mitchell at several games in 2019 walking the parking lots and sitting in the stands. He was also noticably in the front row of the Rose Bowl Stadium where former teammates rushed to celebrate after the Bulldogs’ 38-14 win over the UCLA Bruins.
“Christian Cronk was running to me after the game and giving me a big hug,” Mitchell said. “It really warms my heart knowing that I had a lasting impact on them. I don’t think they know how much of an impact they’ve had on me in my life. It’s just awesome to go to UCLA and get the W. It was just something that I couldn’t have ever dreamed of when I played and I know that it fulfilled a lot of their dreams. I’m just super proud of them.
“It was something that I treasured, something that I look forward to being an alumni for a long time and coming back and supporting and just being a Bulldog forever.”
Mitchell’s plans will take him out of California this fall, however. He plans to workout with Bath Rugby, one of 12 clubs in the top-level of London Rugby known as Premiership Rugby. He then plans to return to San Diego for the 2020 MLR season.
Mitchell said, “I’ll be training with them and hopefully get a chance to get a couple games in … But you’ll still hear from me, don’t worry about it.”
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