Elijah Mitchell’s impressive and already-historic rookie season with the 49ers wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for a life-changing decision he made last year.
In his first NFL season, the 23-year-old broke San Francisco’s single-season franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie following his explosive performance in San Francisco's Week 17 win over the Houston Texans.
Mitchell explained on KNBR’s “Murph & Mac” that the success he’s having in the NFL could have been postponed and overshadowed by another year of college football.
“At first, I was thinking of coming back [to college] for another year because I thought I wasn’t as ready as I thought I would be,” Mitchell said. “I talked with my family, my agent, and we all came down to the conclusion that it’s time for me to leave, and it was the best decision that I ever made.”
Indeed it was.
Mitchell stayed in his home state to play college football at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. And after making the decision to depart from collegiate sports, he was drafted by San Francisco in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
“I was back home. We had rented out a building for one of my close friends,” Mitchell explained. “I was waiting and waiting, then the sixth round came, and my running backs coach Bobby [Turner] called me. I had forgotten that we had been talking for a while, so I was like, 'Why is he calling me?' So, I got on the phone with him, and he said, 'Hey, I want you to talk to Kyle [Shanahan] and John [Lynch]. Then I was like, 'Man I’m about to get drafted,' so that was an awesome day for me."
Since then, Mitchell has claimed the 49ers’ all-time rookie rushing mark with 878 yards in just 10 games. He is 122 yards away from having a 1,000 rushing yard season, which could happen in the 49ers' big matchup against the Los Angeles Rams in the Week 18 regular-season finale.
Mitchell also ranks second among rookies in rushing yards this season, right behind Pittsburgh Steelers back Najee Harris who has 1,172.
“No combine, just pro days. And that’s all we ever did,” Mitchell said. “I was so nervous … but everything worked out like it was supposed to, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity with San Francisco.”