There is no taking back what Joe Mixon did in the early morning hours at an Oklahoma restaurant in 2014. It lives on forever in video form. Only his actions over time will determine whether Mixon can atone for striking a woman in the face and knocking her to the floor.
The Oklahoma running back will live with that act of violence against Amelia Molitor for the rest of his life. And now that he has declared for the NFL Draft, Mixon will be asked about the incident through the arduous pre-selection process by everyone from coaches to general managers to owners wanting to make sure they can trust him before deciding to use a draft pick on him.
Mixon discussed his horrible mistake and his aspirations for the future in an interview Thursday.
"I take full ownership of what happened that night, and it's never OK to hit a woman," Mixon said. "I take full responsibility for that, and I hope a lot of people learn from it."
Mixon, 20, ran 19 times for 91 yards against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night, scoring two touchdowns to help cement the Sooners' 35-19 blowout win in his final college game. He rushed for a gaudy 6.8 yards per carry this season and amassed 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final season at Oklahoma.
At 6-foot-1, 226 pounds, the redshirt sophomore from California has an NFL body. Based on talent alone, evaluating enterprises like Pro Football Focus have him rated among the top 24 players in the country, an obvious first-round talent. Ordinarily, his draft preparation would focus on his potential and upside, but he's going to have to convince teams he has the mental make-up, self-control and maturity to last in the pro game.
Mixon faces a civil claim from Molitor, but has resolved any criminal matters as the misdemeanor charges against him were dismissed with his completing a deferred sentence. Molitor is seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages for willful and wanton misconduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages.
Mixon says he has learned from the counseling he underwent since striking Molitor. His own legal team revealed the surveillance video of the incident to the public, and he vows to never do something like this again and to dedicate time to helping share his story with others.
"I've talked to a lot of kids about this incident and I did community service," Mixon said. "And I've been going to children's hospital and basically just getting around the community so they could see who I really am."
Mixon's agent, Peter Schaffer, who has helped several clients grow from their transgressions in the past, vouches strongly for Mixon, getting to know him and his family well through the recruiting process. He is adamant that this is a good kid who did a heinous thing, and he is willing to go to bat for him with NFL decision makers, hoping that Mixon's act does not define him forever.
"To me, I think the key to the whole draft process is how do you show the player in the best light and present him a person who can help a team win a championship," Schaffer said. "And in Joe's case, it's very easy because he refuses to use the word 'I.' It's always, 'us,' or 'we.' ... He's there to be a part of a team and to help a team win a Super Bowl, and to do what he can to show people that he can be the best teammate possible. That's what we're focused on in the pre-draft process."
Mixon's attorney, Blake Johnson, said: "I hope that when people watch that video they understand that what they're looking at is a very good, young kid who made a very bad mistake. And I think most parents will tell you that very good kids make very bad mistakes sometimes, and when a kid makes a mistake the best that they can hope for is that they own that mistake and try to learn from it and become a better person going forward."
Mixon said he reached a final decision to declare for the NFL only very recently. He has been discussing the option for a while with his family and those he trusts, and reached a final conclusion around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Four hours later he was at the airport, flying from California to Oklahoma in an effort to present the decision in person to coach Bob Stoops before word leaked in any other fashion. After all the Sooner staff did for him, including welcoming him back to the team after all he put them through, Mixon figured it was the least he could do.
"I just thought it was only right to see Coach Stoops face to face," Mixon said. "I felt like I owed that to him, to talk to him man-to-man and let him know how much I appreciated how much he's done for me, he and the program and everybody who stood by me. I felt it was only right to tell him ...
"Them giving me a second chance meant a lot to me, and they did a lot of things for me on and off the field to become a better person and teammate and player around the team and a better person in the community. I learned a lot from them the past three years and they've done a lot to prepare me for the situation I'm in right now. I really appreciate the second chance they gave me, and I'm going to do whatever I can to have them keep believing in me."
By the time Mixon got to the Oklahoma football office, however, Stoops was gone. So Mixon spent some time with the assistant coaches who were around before calling Stoops to inform him of his decision. He says he received their full support.
"Yes sir, they did [wish me well]," Mixon said, "and they said they were happy for me and knew I was doing what was best for me."
Mixon said he went back and forth over whether to return for his junior season, but ultimately his loved ones supported him leaving for the NFL.
"It was a tough call," Mixon said, "but my parents, they were a big influence on my decision, and it's what's best for me and for my family to come to this decision."
As for his pre-draft training, Mixon kept his message simple: "All I've got to say about that is that I'll be ready."
He is simply eager to go to any team that is willing to bring him in to the fold.
"I'm not really thinking about what round I'll go in, or whatever. Honestly, whatever team picks me up, I'm just trying to win a Super Bowl, that's it."
At this point, Mixon says he is keeping his goals simple and straightforward. He knows he must prove through his actions that this was a once-in-a-lifetime transgression, and no amount of words will undo the harm he did. He aspires, through working with children and staying out of trouble, to make a more positive imprint moving forward.
"My goal personally is to be the best teammate I can possibly be," Mixon said, "and to be a role model in the community and to affect young kids in a positive way as they grow up to potentially be better than I was, and just to have kids believe and never give up on their dreams, really."