(Picture courtesy of USU twitter page)
Donovan Mitchell is nothing short of a statewide celebrity. Dunk champ, several Rookie of The Year awards (who cares about the media, the ESPYS and players got it right), and leading his team to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Mitchell almost shut down a mall with an autograph signing, crashed Fourth of July parties, and does plenty of things for the community. He has attended a couple of University of Utah football games this season. However, he has never made the trip to the north side of Utah.
Donovan Mitchell as always been a fan of a certain northern country. Wearing a Toronto Raptors Vinsanity throwback, he famously did a tribute dunk, spinning in the air and double clutching for a ferocious dunk, coolly saying “It’s over!” just like his idol did 18 years prior.
Toronto adopted the #WeTheNorth hashtag to celebrate the success of the one Canadian basketball team of the NBA. What does this have to do with northern Utah?
The city of Logan is like the Toronto of Utah. They have a very passionate fan base at Utah State University but it is often overlooked by the bigger markets such as the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City or the worldwide renowned Brigham Young University which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Similarly the Raptors have had some good seasons but with markets like Boston and Golden State on the rise nobody seems to care. The Raptors, like the Aggies, want to be good so bad that they are willing to fire their coach of the year to do it.
Why is this all relevant?
Donovan embraces the outcasts, the smaller towns most people would overlook. He grew up in Elmsford, not New York City. He chose to go to Louisville for college, not Duke. He plays for the Jazz, not the Lakers. Some players like Dominique Wilkins refused to play for the Jazz or ultimately had bad attitudes regarding the smaller market team in the unknown Beehive State.
Donovan knows that treasure can be found anywhere. He has embraced the state like no athlete ever has. And, no disrespect to the Aggies, but Donovan Mitchell was a big reason the Aggies won their conference opener last night.
Fellow Jazz men O’Neale and Niang also came to the game and all received customized Aggie jerseys with their jersey numbers and names on the back. The HURD chanted “SPIDA” to number 45 (Where was the love for the other guys?) and the atmosphere at the white out was electric. Students wore white shirts and some painted their faces white and tossed corn starch in the air during the “I believe” chant.
Air Force did their classic air raid offense when they did about 3,652 misdirections throughout the night. Fake sweep one way, handoff behind, lateral the other way. They kept the Aggies on their toes early and never went away even after the Aggies built a 35-14 lead.
The wave almost cursed the team according to Aggie twitter. Shortly after the fans did the wave, Air Force scored a touchdown and then forced a fumble for another touchdown to bring the score within 3 points. The Aggies went through a scoring drought for about a quarter before a 70 yard touchdown run by running back Gerold Bright put the score in double digits for good.
There were several long touchdowns to keep the Aggies in the top 10 in the nation in scoring. Dax Raymond 30 yard catch. Aaron Vaughns 43 yard catch. Again, the Gerold Bright one that brought the game back to life. The new “Oregon Chip Kelly” style Aggie offense calls plays almost at the speed of light. The result? Seventh in the nation at 51.5 points per game.
Donovan’s cheering alone didn’t win the game but his presence brought a lot more excitement to an otherwise regular Mountain West matchup for the Aggies.
This game can be summarized in a spin off of a famous nursery rhyme:
Little Miss Aggie with a guy so shaggy,
Chanting “Aggies all the way!”
Along came a Spida who sat down beside her
And frightened the Air Force away!