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Black belt background helps Mitchell on the offensive line

August 13, 2017 GMT

Kevin Pendleton first saw it on Instagram.

Offensive line coach Glen Elarbee heard players talking about it at practice.

Paul Adams did a double take when he found out.

“If they ask me about it, I’ll tell them,” redshirt senior Kyle Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s athletic background extends beyond football. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound offensive lineman has experience with a rare sport: He’s a black belt in taekwondo.

Mitchell started taekwondo training as a 9-year-old, and he earned a black belt by age 12. He grew up in California and traveled around the West — from Portland, Oregon, to Reno, Nevada — for competitions. He even tried out for the U.S. Junior Olympic team, which he called a humbling experience.

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“I got my butt whooped,” he said.

Though Mitchell ultimately stopped training for martial arts competition, he decided to try out his old moves when he was working out in June. He filmed a video of himself leaping in the air to kick a punching bag and posted it to Instagram. His right foot was at head-level when it hit its target, and a ripple went through his gray Missouri shorts from the force of the kick.

Kyle Mitchell leaping kick

The black belt hadn’t lost all his skills, it appeared.

“We were joking that it was photoshopped,” offensive lineman Alec Abeln said.

Abeln said that his teammate’s martial arts background makes sense. He’s a physical player, and Abeln noted Mitchell’s impressive balance while on the field.

Mitchell transferred to the Tigers from American River College, a junior college in California, before the 2016 season, and he played in all but one game on Missouri’s field goal protection unit. Entering his final year of eligibility, Mitchell has turned heads duuring training camp. His teammates praised his hard work and improvement, and Elarbee said he has “a great motor.”

Though he hasn’t practiced martial arts in years, Mitchell sees his taekwondo skills translating to football.

″(It) helps me use my hands a lot, as well, and some of the soft skills, as well,” he said. “Just being disciplined. Using perseverance and self-control and stuff like that all have helped me now with football.”

Pendleton joked that when it comes to teammates he’d be afraid to fight, Mitchell is on the list. He complimented Mitchell’s athletic abilities, saying that there are no more “big hunks” playing on the offensive line.

“You have to be some sort of athlete to play the position,” Pendleton said. “And he embraces his athleticism and uses it.”

Supervising editors are Jonathan McKay and Pete Bland.

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