How fatherhood drives 2021 NFL Draft prospects Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas
Either one of them could have returned for another season at UL.
Much like they shared the ball in the Ragin’ Cajuns backfield, the two have a common bond driving their decision to go pro.
Each is a young father.
“Their family. That’s what pushes them the most. And where they come from. They want to make it,” said Chris Smith, the third member of UL’s three-man running back rotation last season. “That’s what everybody hopes and dreams: just make it to the next level.”
Mitchell, an Earth High product, has two sons and Ragas, who played at Archbishop Shaw High in the New Orleans area, has one.
“When they had a child, that really motivated them a lot. Because they have a family to feed,” Smith said. “They’ve just got to get out there and take care of business, make sure they’ve got their life planned out.”
Jabbar Juluke on Mitchell and Ragas
A couple days after Mitchell ran a blazing fast 40-yard dash timed anywhere from 4.32 to 4.38 seconds on multiple stopwatches during his pro day, running backs coach Jabbar Juluke didn’t hesitate when asked he thought spurred on the program’s No. 6 all-time rusher.
“He’s a father,” Juluke said of Mitchell, who spent four seasons at UL. “He has two kids.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity he is going to have for he and his family. I think he has worked extremely hard his entire career here. Then to put a cap on it and go to pro day and do what he did is very outstanding.”
Ragas, who redshirted as a freshman and spent five seasons with the Cajuns, is similarly driven, Juluke suggested.
“He also has a child,” the Cajuns assistant said, “and that’s a motivating factor for him.”
Ragas indicated his desire to make it to the NFL is one he’s had long before experiencing fatherhood.
“I’ve been having this in the back of my head since I started playing football, back when I was 6 years old,” Ragas said.
Getting Ragas to share even that much seems even tougher than ripping a ball from his vice-like grip.
He rambles as infrequently as he fumbles.
“Trey is a very shy person, so … you have to pry it out of him a little bit,” Juluke said of Mitchell, the Cajuns’ No. 3 career rushing yardage leader.
“But I think because of what football can do for him, what he loves about playing is being a competitor and competing at a high level.
“Trey, he’s self-motivated. He doesn’t say a whole lot,” Juluke added. “He lets his actions speak for him and I think that’s going to carry him a very long way over the next level.”
But the climb may be more challenging for Ragas, who simply hopes to get drafted rather than have to go the undrafted free agent route, than it is for Mitchell, whose stock perhaps got a boost with his pro day performance.
Just the beginning
Multiple draft prognosticators have Mitchell pegged as a possible late-round pick.
“This is just the beginning for him,” strength coach Mark Hocke said after the pro day run by Mitchell, who also played in the Senior Bowl. “I think somebody’s gonna call his name, probably earlier than later.
“He’s gonna continue to improve and do really special things on Sunday.”
What Mitchell seeks first, though, is simply the opportunity to get going.
“I want to be a starter,” he said, “but I know I’m going to have to work my way up.
“(I want to) just be a playmaker for whoever picks me up, just be a guy to come in and do my job and do it the right way.”
Getting a shot at the profession he too has sought since was a kid would afford Mitchell a chance to prove himself to those who matter most.
That’s no different for Mitchell than it is for Ragas.
“You look at your son, you’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s got to watch me. He (doesn’t) want to see me fail,’ ” Smith said. “So that motivates them a lot. I really think that’s the thing that pushes them.”