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“What Dee Mitchell has lasts forever”: Walk-on at Oklahoma State surprised with scholarship at work

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Oklahoma State guard Dee Mitchell
Oklahoma State guard Dee Mitchell (55) drives past Iowa State guard Tyler Harris (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Ames, Iowa. Oklahoma State won 81-60. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Dee Mitchell’s journey to national notoriety started with rejection. 

As a freshman at Oklahoma State University, Mitchell walked into the head basketball coach’s office and asked for the chance to play for the school as a walk-on. The team was full, though, so coach Mike Boynton told him no. When three players were kicked off the team a few months later, he was given another chance. 

After winning a spot in tryouts, Mitchell became a key member of the rotation and played an important role in several big games over the last few years. 

Like so many others, however, when COVID hit he thought his dreams and ambitions would have to take a back seat to his other responsibilities. Mitchell’s mother lost her job. So, to help pay for tuition and bills at home, he picked up forty hours a week stocking produce at Walmart in addition to taking fifteen credit hours at OSU. 

Given that there’s only so much time in the day, Mitchell thought that would mean the end of his time on the basketball team. Fortunately, his coach didn’t see it that way, assuring the young man that “if you want to play basketball, you have a place here. If you want to stay, you don’t have to quit.” 

And, for his part, Mitchell has made it work. 

While he’s missed some games and practices because of his work schedule, he starts every day with 6 a.m. workouts with the team before study hall and attends classes the rest of the morning, leading up to his 1–10 p.m. shift at Walmart. 

That kind of work ethic has been an inspiration to his team and is a big part of why, halfway through a recent shift, Coach Boynton worked with Mitchell’s manager to arrange for a little surprise. While the junior thought he was watching a video for a safety evaluation, his coach snuck in and surprised him with the news that he would finish his time on scholarship. 

As Mitchell described, “This means everything to me. I didn’t know what was going on. It was a real surprise . . . It felt like I was in a movie or something.” 

Afterward, his manager told him that he could take the rest of the night off. But in keeping with the mentality that earned him the scholarship to begin with, Mitchell simply replied “No ma’am, the bananas need restocking.”

Are we consistent in word and deed?

As amazing as Mitchell’s story is, he’s hardly the first person to go from a walk-on to a scholarship athlete. What seems to set him apart, however, is that he earned it as much through his character and resilience as he did his play on the court. 

Now his basketball skills surely played a crucial role but, in listening to his coach speak, it becomes clear that the decision to pay for the rest of his schooling was as much about the person as the player. 

As Boynton described it, “This basketball thing has got a shelf life, but what Dee Mitchell has lasts forever. He’s got resilience, perseverance, great attitude, unbelievable work ethic, respectful . . . I think he is a great example of what life is really about.”

As Christians, it’s imperative that the same could be said about us. 

Paul instructed the believers in Colossae that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). 

While that principle is often quoted as motivation for living for Christ in every facet of our lives, the preceding verses are a necessary guide to doing it well. 

After all, we seldom serve Christ best by just trying harder. 

Rather, Paul says that if we want to truly glorify God in everything we do, we must act with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other” (3:12–13). 

He continues in subsequent verses by outlining the need for love, the peace of Christ, and thankfulness before concluding with the admonition to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (3:14–16).

In short, doing “everything in the name of Jesus” is not a switch we can turn on and off. 

Rather, it’s a way of life that must permeate every facet of our existence. It speaks to a genuine and consistent character regardless of our circumstances. 

As Mitchell’s story demonstrates, when we take that approach to life, people tend to notice. 

And while it won’t always result in a college scholarship, promotion at work, or even public recognition of any sort, God will use that kind of devotion to further his kingdom. 

Will he be able to use you today?

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