The Next Level
LEDGER – Two Mitchell football standouts are playing together at the next level.
Mountaineer tight end and defensive end Alex McKinney and lineman Todd Self signed letters-of-intent Tuesday, March 7, to be preferred walk-ons at Western Carolina University this fall. The two seniors were an integral part of a Mitchell team that finished as state runners-up in 2015 and lost in the state semifinals in 2016.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound McKinney said it is a great feeling to fulfill his lifelong goal of playing football at the college level, but added he will always treasure his time as a Mountaineer.
“It’s what we’ve always dreamed of and what we’ve always worked for in the weight room, on the field and off the field,” McKinney said. “ Honestly, nothing is ever going compare to playing football in Mitchell County – the fan support and knowing everybody.”
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Self, who won a state championship in wrestling in February, said playing college football has been his dream since he was young,
“It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Self said. “I love the campus and I love the atmosphere (at Western Carolina). I think it’s going be great.”
McKinney had 27 receptions for 377 yards and nine touchdowns on offense as a senior. He had 109 tackles – 25 for a loss – and eight sacks on defense and was 2016’s Western Highlands Conference lineman of the year. He grabbed 69 catches for 1,012 yards and 18 touchdowns on offense and amassed 202 tackles and 20 sacks on defense during his time at Mitchell.
Self had 45 tackles and one sack as a senior and racked up 133 tackles and six sacks during his time as a Mountaineer.
The Catamounts are members of the Southern Conference and finished 2-9 in 2016 after back-to-back winning seasons under Head Coach Mark Speir.
McKinney said he likes the coaching staff at Western and the school’s location in Cullowhee – about an hour southwest of Asheville.
The pair has been to a couple football games at WCU and Self attended the school’s football camp multiple times.
Mitchell Head Coach and former WCU tight end Travise Pitman said Self and McKinney are excellent players on and great people off the field and the pair brings a winning mentality to the Catamounts.
“I think they know how to win,” Pitman said. “I think they can carry that into the Western program.”
Pitman said McKinney and Self will have to adjust to being full-time student-athletes at the college level and they need to “cherish” the experience.
Both McKinney and Self have younger brothers, Tyler and Trevor, respectively, who play football for Mitchell. Alex is the son of Heather Potter Rickman and Tony McKinney. Self’s parents are Robbie and Libby.