KUSA—Joe Mixon sat across from Joe Ellis and explained himself.
Mixon, the highly talented and controversial Oklahoma Sooners running back, visited the Denver Broncos at their team headquarters Thursday as part of his preparation for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Mixon met with several teams during his Pro Day last week, and met privately last weekend with the Cincinnati Bengals prior to his visit with the Broncos. His agent, Denver-based Peter Schaffer, said Mixon has visits scheduled with at least 10 more teams.
Ordinarily, the Broncos don’t consider bringing in a player that carries the type of character red flag that is part of Mixon’s scouting report. Mixon, however, is considered a first- or second-round talent and after the NFL did not permit him to attend the Scouting Combine two weeks ago, the Broncos scheduled their own personal visit with the prospect.
“I think he’s an outstanding individual,’’ said Schaffer, who took Mixon out to dinner Wednesday night prior to the running back's visit with the Broncos on Thursday morning. “He’s been nothing but fantastic every step along the way with me. Everybody who’s come in contact with him has come away very impressed with his character and his demeanor and his positive attitude, as well as his love of football as well as his acknowledgement he’s made a mistake. I expect the people he meets with will come away with the same feeling.’’
Mixon was caught on video retaliating to a forceful push he received from a female by slugging the woman in the face at a Norman, Okla., restaurant during an incident in July, 2014. The female was hospitalized with a broken jaw and cheekbone. The altercation occurred just before Mixon’s freshman year at Oklahoma. He was suspended from that season and received a one-year deferred sentenced after reaching a plea deal to an assault charge.
Mixon then had two electrifying seasons for the Sooners, rushing for 753 yards on 6.7 yards per carry, plus 356 yards receiving as a redshirt freshman. This past season as a sophomore, Mixon had a Christian McCaffrey-like, all-around season in that he rushed for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns, caught 37 passes for another 538 yards and five touchdowns, and had a 97-yard touchdown kickoff return against Ohio State.
He was suspended from playing in the Sooners’ game against Iowa State last November after he was accused of tearing up a parking ticket into pieces and throwing into a female attendant’s face.
Schaffer said Mixon paid the parking ticket.
To consider adding Mixon to a team’s roster is the type of decision that goes beyond football operations, which is why Ellis, the Broncos' chief executive officer, met privately with the running back on Thursday. Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said at the Scouting Combine two weeks ago that he would only draft Mixon if he received approval from team owner Martha Ford.
During his visit at the UCHealth Training Center, Mixon also met with Broncos' general manager John Elway, head coach Vance Joseph, and director of player development Ray Jackson, along with several assistant coaches.
Even if Mixon did convince the Broncos’ brain trust he has put his troubles behind him, it won’t be an easy call for the organization. The Broncos do need a versatile offensive weapon and the high-character Christian McCaffrey may not be available when the team drafts No. 20 in the first round or No. 51 in the second.
The Broncos did not express interest in Tyreek Hill last season, primarily because the former Oklahoma State standout was arrested on a domestic violence charge for allegedly attempting to choke his pregnant girlfriend.
Like Mixon, Hill was not invited to NFL Scouting Combine as part of the league’s new domestic violence program that was instituted following its embarrassing handling of the Ray Rice case in 2014.
The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Hill in the fifth-round last year – and he was a huge factor in defeating the Broncos’ twice last season, losses that knocked Denver out of the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
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