Colts rookie WR Mitchell keeps motivation close to heart

May 11—INDIANAPOLIS — Much ado will be made over the ensuing months about Addonai Mitchell's jersey number.

Following some late-night contemplation, the second-round wide receiver chose No. 10 to represent the players at his position selected ahead of him in last month's NFL Draft.

It's a sign of the competitive edge that marked the Indianapolis Colts' newest offensive weapon's game throughout his college career.

But it takes a little deeper investigation to discover Mitchell's true motivation. That's always close to his heart.

Speaking with the media during rookie mini-camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center this weekend, Mitchell reached underneath that No. 10 jersey and pulled up a necklace honoring his 3-year-old daughter, Icylinn.

When he declared for the NFL Draft in January, Mitchell penned a letter to his daughter published by The Players' Tribune.

It read in part, "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me and my reason for everything I do."

So when Mitchell makes a mid-air adjustment to pull down a pass thrown to the wrong shoulder, gets his feet inbounds and burns down the sideline, leaving a slack-jawed defender in his wake — as he did Saturday in just his second NFL practice — know it's not vengeance dominating his mindset.

It's a far more powerful emotion. Love.

"I felt like my life has just had a whole different purpose, a whole different meaning, since she's been born," Mitchell said. "... I wear this necklace everywhere I go. I don't take it off to shower. I don't take it off to sleep — nothing. That's my girl. That's what I wake up and do it for every day. So that's been motivation since her Day 1."

An array of explanations have been offered as to how Mitchell — a 6-foot-2, 205-pound target with 4.34-second speed in the 40-yard dash and a penchant for making big plays in clutch situations — lasted until the 52nd overall pick, where Indianapolis traded down six spots to select him.

There were anonymous sources claiming everything from a lack of effort on plays in which Mitchell is not the intended receiver to poor interviews with teams during the draft process.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard went viral for a profane rant against those reports — and the motivation behind similar character assassinations each year — on draft night.

But assistant GM Ed Dodds offers another possibility.

"Probably just because he didn't have a — his one big year," Dodds said. "He played early at Georgia, but just moving schools, you're starting over. I think that probably was the biggest thing was just — they are always going to ding people on one-year production."

Mitchell started as a freshman on a national championship team at Georgia in 2022 and caught 29 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns. But an ankle injury helped limit him to just five games as a sophomore, and he transferred back home to Texas.

Mitchell was a star during a breakout 2023 season for the Longhorns, who reached the College Football Playoff for the first time. He caught 55 passes for 845 yards and 11 scores and averaged a career-high 15.4 yards per reception.

Perhaps most notably, he played in his fifth career CFP game and caught his fifth career CFP touchdown pass.

That postseason success — playing his best when the games matter most — might be the most impressive entry on Mitchell's resume.

"The only thing I can do is catch the ball that's thrown to me," Mitchell said of his clutch performances. "I can't throw it to myself, and I can't make (the quarterback) throw it to me. So it's just when that opportunity presents itself, being able to capitalize and just make the most of the moment."

Mitchell made that happen with elite athleticism — he has a 9.97 relative athletic score on the 10-point scale — and an ability to contort his body into whatever angle is necessary to beat the defender on a given play.

That skill already was evident this weekend as the 21-year-old took the first steps of his professional career.

His gloved hands were often spotted rising above the crowd to snatch the football out of the air when he was in traffic. At other times, he simply turned on the afterburners, ran to open space and left the defense well behind in his rearview mirror.

"Explosive," Colts head coach Shane Steichen said of his first impression. "You can see the size. You can see the speed, hands — great hands. Even watching him in individual (drills) with (wide receivers coach) Reggie (Wayne), just the way he plucks the ball. He's a natural pass catcher.

"Again, like we talked about after the draft, he can separate at the top (of routes). He ran some good routes here in 7-on-7. He had some 1-on-1 winners, which was good to see."

There's also a sizable chip on Mitchell's shoulder.

He said he can't name the 10 receivers drafted ahead of him and he's not bitter about the result, but he'll only have to look down at the number on his chest to remember the long wait he endured before hearing his name called.

Then he'll likely feel the necklace resting just behind it and remember who it is he's playing for.

After each practice this weekend, Mitchell stayed behind to do extra work with undrafted quarterback Kedon Slovis.

"If a player as good as that wants someone to throw to him, I'll jump on the opportunity," Slovis said. "But he's done a great job. There's a reason he was a second-round pick, right? So it's been fun to throw to him the past couple days."

The work is just beginning.

Mtchell is looking forward to meeting starting quarterback Anthony Richardson and gelling with veteran wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs and Ashton Dulin.

He got a taste of what the pro game has to offer during rookie camp, and it's left him hungry for more.

"It's the NFL. Everybody's good," Mitchell said. "Everybody has got a little something to them. Everybody — the things that they do well, they do really well. At this point, it's just a matter of taking my game to that next level and just adding on to the different things that I do well and ultimately just being the best I can be."