Mention Sacred Heart Cathedral linebacker Jerry Mixon Jr., and two things quickly come to mind. One is his hulking presence on defense, and the other is his cousin, Joe.
Any football player with the last name Mixon automatically turns heads in the Bay Area, and understandably so. Joe starred at Freedom High in Oakley, emerged on the national stage as a running back at Oklahoma and now serves as a key fixture in the backfield for the Cincinnati Bengals, who reached the Super Bowl in February.
While his cousin’s name certainly garners Jerry some extra attention, the younger Mixon is carving out his own path as a dominant middle linebacker. His legacy already includes a state championship at Sacred Heart, and after he suits up for a final time in the green and white for his senior year, he’ll be heading to the University of Oregon—and again wearing green on the field—where he plans to continue his studies and play linebacker on a full-ride scholarship.
“It’s pressure on me, trying to make a name for myself, but it’s cool having him in the NFL to guide me to where I wanna be,” said Mixon—who chose the Ducks over offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Missouri and UCLA—of his cousin. “I’m gonna live up to the name for sure.”
Mixon also got offers from Cal; Nevada; San Diego State; San Jose State; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Washington; and Washington State.
“It’s been stressful these last couple months, and it’s gonna be stressful telling coaches that I’m not gonna be going to their school,” Mixon said with a smile. “I’m blessed to be in this position, though. A lot of people can’t do what I do, so I’m just grateful.”
He’s the latest in a series of high-profile Bay Area recruits to commit to the Ducks. Menlo-Atherton’s Troy Franklin will be a starting wide receiver for Oregon as a sophomore, and Jurrion Dickey, who spent the first three years of his high school career at Valley Christian and scored a circus touchdown to beat Sacred Heart last fall, will be heading up to Eugene following his senior year of high school.
“I talked with Dickey a bit, but it was really the connection with (defensive coordinator) Tosh Lupoi that sold me,” Mixon said. “He kept it real with me.”
Lupoi is a Bay Area native and De La Salle alum who played at Cal. He has coached at Cal, Washington, Alabama and been a member of three different NFL coaching staffs. He’s regarded as an excellent recruiter, with Mixon being just the latest of many to sing his praises, but he has also been known to move between jobs quickly. His longest stay in the coaching ranks was a five-year run at Alabama.
Before Mixon heads off to Eugene, he has some unfinished business for the Fightin’ Irish.
“We hope to set the standard and win the WCAL,” he said. “It’s never been done here.”
“Unfinished business” isn’t a phrase that can be associated with most defending state champions, but the Irish had an unusual 2021 campaign. Sacred Heart posted a 3-7 regular season record, barely squeaking into the playoffs before winning the Central Coast Section (CCS) Division III and California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 4-A titles. In all, the Irish won their final six contests after dropping seven of their first nine, punctuating their state championship victory over Northview-Covina with Mixon’s 54-yard pick six.
Even with those successes, the Irish still enter the 2022 season with a proverbial chip on their shoulder. Their regular season results dropped them into a lower playoff division via the CCS’s confusing “competitive equity” system, leading rivals to question the legitimacy of their championship.
As evidenced by the spirited turnout in the school auditorium for his commitment ceremony, it’s clear Mixon will have no shortage of support wherever he goes, but he is ready to move on from his childhood home.
“I feel like I’ll visit back occasionally,” he said when asked about his Bay Area roots. “I don’t think I’ll miss San Francisco, though.”
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]