Cherishing new beginnings: Mixon back producing for Bulldogs after overcoming injury

Mississippi State's Keith Mixon

Staff Writer

Every moment on the football field is more special than ever to Keith Mixon these days.

The Mississippi State wide receiver, back playing again after overcoming a career-threatening foot injury, is cherishing every single snap, every single catch and every single second he gets to play the game he loves.

“I’ll never take another snap for granted again because I know what I’ve been through,” Mixon said. “I want to be out there making plays for my team.”

This season is a new start for Mixon. Yes, he’s playing for a new head coach in a new offensive system, but there is so much more.

Mixon is coming off a frustrating 2017 season. After starting the first six games of the year for the Bulldogs, the Birmingham, Alabama, native battled his foot ailment down the stretch. He missed five total games. In the offseason, Mixon had surgery to correct the issue. He was told at the time his football-playing days may be over. Mixon had other plans.

“I knew it was a bad injury,” Mixon said. “People were telling me before I had the surgery that there was a possibility that I might not come back, but I love this game. I had some good days and I had some bad days (rehabbing). Probably mostly bad days. I was frustrated. I just prayed about it with my family. I talked to a lot of counselors about it. I just have to give it up to my strength and conditioning coaches (for getting me back).”

It hasn’t taken all that long for Mixon to get his feet back under him both figuratively and literally. Through three games this season, Mixon is tied with Stephen Guidry with a team-high six receptions. Mixon’s biggest impact came last Saturday as he hauled in four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. It was a sight Mixon’s quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald, was proud to see.

“It was huge,” Fitzgerald said of Mixon’s performance. “He’s pushed through (his injury) and came out and had a stellar night. That was huge.”

Fitzgerald knows better than most all that Mixon has endured. Fitzgerald himself is back on the gridiron after his own injury. In last season’s final regular season game, Fitzgerald suffered a gruesomely broken ankle. He, like Mixon, had surgery. He, like Mixon, faced a long, arduous process to get back on the field. As Fitzgerald tried to recover, he had company over the course of the offseason in the form of Mixon.

“We were both in the training room forever together,” Fitzgerald said. “We were just pushing each other through. It’s long, monotonous, boring stuff to rehab an ankle. We both can attest to that, but we both attacked it and we’re both back now doing what we love and making some plays.”

MSU head coach Joe Moorhead has been impressed with how Mixon has soldiered through his dark days to once again emerge as a receiving threat. Moorhead knew from watching film of Mixon how dynamic and explosive the man former Bulldog wide receiver Fred Ross dubbed the “Pocket Rocket” could be. Yet it wasn’t until recently Moorhead got a firsthand look at Mixon’s talent as he got back fully healthy for the first time under Moorhead’s watch.

“I’m very proud of the way he’s approached things," Moorhead said. "Football is very important to him with individual success and how the team does. Keith has got a very bright future here, immediate and in the long term.”

Moorhead is counting on Mixon to do multiple things for this year’s MSU team. While Mixon has been one of Fitzgerald’s favorite targets, he’s also been utilized as a punt returner. So far this season, Mixon has returned eight punts for 69 total yards.

“I’m loving it,” Mixon said of getting in on special teams. “This is my first time really playing on punt return. I think I get better every time I go out there. Catching the ball and making guys miss. I’m really having fun with it.”

The fact that Moorhead trusts Mixon enough to do multiple things speaks volumes about how far Mixon has come in such a short time. It wasn’t all that long ago that Mixon knew there was a possibility he’d never get these chances he’s getting now. Yet here he is, after overcoming his injury, back living his dream.

“I’m just blessed to have this opportunity again,” Mixon said.