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Joe Knows Redemption: How Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Mixon is Giving Back Joe Knows Redemption: How Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Mixon is Giving Back
Joe Knows Redemption It was a little over a year ago that I used this space to defend the character of a kid I... Joe Knows Redemption: How Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Mixon is Giving Back

Joe Knows Redemption

It was a little over a year ago that I used this space to defend the character of a kid I once covered extensively as a high school athlete for Freedom High in Oakley. In March of 2017, weeks before the NFL Draft, Joe Mixon — because of his legal issues as a freshman at Oklahoma University in 2014 —  was among the most polarizing names among the several hundred draft-eligible players.

National hot take artists salivated at their chances to paint him as another delinquent player who they wouldn’t let near THEIR football team.

That wasn’t the Joe Mixon I knew in high school.

I believed he was still that person, and said so.

I’m glad Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals agreed.   

Mixon stayed out of trouble and only got better as the 2017 season progressed. A late-season concussion may have cost him his chance at reaching the 1,000 yard mark in yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 626 yards and caught 30 passe for 287 more.

And everyone stopped talking about his character.

Well I’m here to start talking about it again. Because he deserves it.

In mid-January, I got a tip that Mixon was going stop by his former elementary school in Antioch to make a donation. I dropped by Mission Elementary that morning to catch up with him and find out what kind of donation it might be.

It turns out it was a check for $3,000 to pay for a month’s worth of school lunches.

“I know it’s hard for parents nowadays,” Mixon said that morning. “I just felt that it was the right thing to do. Just wanted to find a way to somehow give back to our community and help the little kids who aren’t that fortunate. I was once in that position, so I know what it’s like.”

Gary Conn is finishing his 25th year as a physical education teacher at Mission. He remembers what Mixon was like when the current NFL running back was in that position.

“Joe Mixon was a typical Mission kid…”

said Conn, who accepted the Mixon’s check on the school’s behalf. “I remember telling his mom during after-school pick-up, ‘You’ve got to keep this one out of trouble because I think he’s got a lot of potential.”

Conn, like many Antioch and Oakley educators who helped shepherd Mixon through his formative years, had a hard time with the Oklahoma incident and fallout. They’re happy to see the Joe Mixon they knew come out the other side.

“I’m just mostly proud of him,” Conn said. “He had some rough times and he’s really working hard to show people that that’s not him. What happened is not Joe Mixon. He’s a better person than that, and he knows that. He’s done everything to show people that. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Count me among those. He could play for MY team. Oh wait, he did! Maybe next year we’ll get that Fantasy Trophy, Joe.


Chace Bryson

Chace Bryson is the managing editor of SportStars Magazine. Reach him at

  • Carlotta Nowell

    June 26, 2018 #1 Author

    I too support this young athlete and know he has done everything he can to live a good healthy life and be the person we can all rally around and be proud of. He jumped up and offered to take a picture with i and my grandaughter in norman when he first came to meet the sooners day. We cherish that picture! Prayers for a safe and healthy life. Always a Sooner!


    • mm

      Chace Bryson

      June 26, 2018 #2 Author

      Thanks for sharing, Carlotta!


    • Alisa Smith

      June 26, 2018 #3 Author

      Thank you for you support!
      I am Joe Mixon’s mom! And Yes, the Joe Mixon we know is a sweet, loving, kind, and generous young man!


  • Tom Dingle

    June 28, 2018 #4 Author

    God Bless you bro! Good luck in the pros! Go show them how the OU boys play football! BOOMER……


  • MJessup

    January 22, 2022 #5 Author

    Thank you for contributing to Mission Elementary.. I attend there when it first opened. Was shuffled around from elementary school until it opened my fourth grade year.

    We too didn’t have much either. It is greatness like Joe Mixon that shouldn’t be forgotten. My always told us to be kind, Love what you did.


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