stares into the backfield and then shifts his eyes to the quarterback.
The inside linebacker at River Valley (Caledonia, Ohio)
is getting prepared for the snap. Miracle has gotten really good at guessing the play the opposing team is going to run.
It's a handoff to the halfback in the I-formation. Miracle sheds the attempted block by the fullback, attacks the ball carrier and wraps him up. Miracle's instinct to find the ball is what really impresses longtime River Valley coach Doug Green.
"I think he does get it naturally," Green said. "His dad was a real nice athlete in school — a real nice wrestler and played football. He's had uncles that have played. I think Mitchell also has quite a bit of football sense and so he's very smart about the game. He can kind of tell based on reading the linemen or reading the backfield on what the play calls for. And he's pretty much able to figure out where the ball's going to be and he makes that assessment and goes."
Ever since he was a young player, Miracle has had a nose for the football.
"My dad always said I had a crazy instinct just to get to the ball and my reaction time was just so much better than other people," Miracle said. "Sometimes I would get through the line before the running back would even get the ball because I could tell where it was going."
The 17-year-old capped off his junior season with a team-high 119 tackles in just nine games. He also tallied nine tackles for loss.
Since Miracle was playing so well during the season, Green started to build his defensive schemes around his budding linebacker.
"Coaches would sit down and talk to me and they'd ask me how I thought they could adjust the defense," said Miracle, who was a defensive captain the second half of the season. "They'd even ask me for tips or pointers —
where our linemen could go, how to help out our other linebackers and small things like that." Learn more about the MaxPreps US Marines program at www.maxpreps.com/marines
That's fairly remarkable for a kid who just one year earlier was playing junior varsity football and didn't see any varsity snaps. A big reason for Miracle's miraculous transformation from his sophomore to junior years was he hit a growth spurt over the summer. He sprouted up two to three inches to 5-foot-10 and increased his weight from 145 to 185 pounds.
Miracle, who qualified for the state wrestling tournament as a sophomore, added muscle over the summer and competed in plenty of wrestling tournaments before being sidelined with a torn meniscus. He missed the first football game of the season, but was ready to contribute right when he got into the starting lineup. Miracle had six tackles in his first varsity game and then averaged over 14 tackles per game the rest of the season. His confidence grew the better he played on the field.
"The third and fourth game that's kind of when I realized, ‘OK, I can do this. I'm there, I'm making the tackles. I'm there for the team,' " Miracle said.
Being a state-caliber wrestler has helped Miracle become a better football player.
"I think it's tremendous for him, especially for a guy like Mitchell who doesn't naturally have all that size," Green said. "A lot of players, they're blessed with size and it makes it a whole lot easier for them, well he's not. In wrestling, the leverage that he has learned and how to use it. I think that makes all the difference for him, especially on defense."
Said Miracle: "As a 5-foot-10, 175-pound linebacker, I would take on 250-pound, 6-foot-2 linemen. And for how long I've wrestled, I would grab them and literally throw them off me, taking on three or four blocks," Miracle said. "I think that really showed how I played because I wouldn't be afraid to grab them. I'd hit them first and get them off me and still make the tackle."
Miracle is coming off a 35-10 season on the wrestling mat and earning his first state tournament appearance. Last year, he wrestled at 132 pounds in Division II and bumped up to 170 this season. After losing both his state matches as a sophomore, Miracle's goal is to get to the state title match. Miracle is trying to live up this dad's reputation as a wrestler. Shawn Miracle competed at state twice back in the mid-1980s.
Miracle is getting recruited to wrestle in college — he's received letters from nine schools — but the sport that he really wants to play at the next level is football. Coach Green believes his pupil can be a strong Division II player, and Miracle is hoping to attract interest from schools prior to next football season. Miracle's dream: getting a chance to play at in-state Ohio State.
Being a solid athlete will help the recruiting process, but also being an excellent student won't hurt. Miracle is a bright kid, carrying a 3.7 grade point average. His plan is to pursue a degree in the health-care field to become either a nurse or anesthesiologist.
"Athletics, that's a good thing, but academics that's your future," said Miracle, who was named Academic All-Ohio last year for wrestling. "That's your future because if something doesn't work out in athletics, you have to have a fallback plan."
Miracle is the sixth of eight children in his family, and he knows the importance of being a well-rounded person. He learned a great deal about life from his three older brothers and two sisters. Now, Miracle is working to be a good role model to his twin brothers.
"I try to set a good example for them to strive for academically and sports-wise," Miracle said. "I know they look up to me a lot in sports because I do so well."Know an incredible student-athlete who stands out in sports and in life away from competition? Click here to nominate them for a chance to be featured on MaxPreps.