The truth is, Teradja Mitchell had little interest in Ohio State at first.

Growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, he was an LSU fan. When he became a coveted recruit, the linebacker favored Florida State.

“To be honest, early on in the recruiting process, I wasn’t even considering Ohio State,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t want to go there. I just felt it wasn’t the school for me.”

But he knew about the Buckeyes’ tradition and that OSU regularly sends linebackers to the NFL. Mitchell wants to major in finance and learned that Ohio State has a top business school. When his dad, Terry, suggested that he visit the campus for last year’s Michigan game, he figured it was worth the nine-hour drive.

“I came in with an open mind,” Mitchell said.

He was blown away.

“Just the atmosphere, there’s no other atmosphere like it,” Mitchell said. “They’re the best fans in the land, and I fell in love with all the coaches.”

In June, he committed to be a Buckeye. He is ranked by ESPN as the No. 2 inside linebacker prospect in the country.

“He is an athletic freak,” ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. “He’s an excellent overall athlete and can play inside or out. He’s never going to be a true ‘take-on’ type ’backer, but he can run and he loves contact. Still developing in pass coverage, but he is all over the field. I really like him.”

Mitchell mostly agrees with that assessment, though he added that he is working hard on his coverage skills. His high school, Bishop Sullivan, plays a lot of elite spread offenses.

Last week, Mitchell had 17 tackles, including three for loss, in a 3-0 loss to Our Lady of Good Counsel from Olney, Maryland.

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“Going into the game, I kept saying to myself that I’m going to have a big game,” he said. “I had a big game against this team last year, and I just challenged myself and my teammates challenged me. I was just focused and locked in on every target that was in front of me and just balled out.”

He said he plays football with controlled anger.

“I do love to hit,” Mitchell said. “It’s only time you get to hit somebody as hard as you can and not get in trouble for it.”

Mitchell excels in the classroom as well. He has a 3.6 GPA and his favorite class is Latin.

“When you take Latin, it expands your vocabulary,” Mitchell said. “I know what a word is by looking at the roots in the word. It all derives from Latin. I found that interesting.”

Mitchell’s first name is a combination of his father’s and grandfather Elijah’s name. It’s pronounced Ter-AH-jah.

“A unique name,” he said. “One and only. I love it.”

Mitchell has a cousin, Eli Harold, who plays linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. Terry Mitchell was a star player locally in his day, Teradja said.

Mitchell said he can’t wait to start his college career and join OSU’s top-ranked recruiting class.

“I feel it’s definitely a class that can bring a national championship to Ohio State,” he said. “The best part about it is we’re not finished yet. We have a lot more recruits who can potentially be a part of this class. It’s exciting.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

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