Note: The following appears in the Wake Forest football gameday program.
In the Tar Heel State in the city of Raleigh, approximately 250 miles from Clemson’s campus, is Leesville Road High School. In this place, senior offensive lineman Mitchell Mayes found his love for football. While he was a highly sought-after recruit in high school, Clemson felt like the right place for Mayes.
“Clemson was the best of both worlds. It has everything I wanted and everything I needed.”
Mayes had a different path than the average college athlete. He did not play any sports until he was in middle school.
“I was not that big into sports growing up. I did not start playing any sports until I was in middle school, but I was not really good and did not really like it. It was not until my sophomore year of high school that I locked in and started playing offensive line.”
By the end of his time at Leesville Road High School, Mayes made a name for himself, as he was the No. 14 overall player in the nation by ESPN, the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 2 player from the state. Mayes wanted to continue his success by joining a great program like Clemson.
“There is so much success here with the 1981 national championship team to 2016 and 2018. There are a lot of people who love this Paw and deserve a lot of respect.”
When Thomas Austin formally stepped into the role of Clemson’s offensive line coach in February 2022, Mayes felt the immediate impact on his game. Due to his late start in football, Mayes needed some assistance on the technical features of his position.
“Coach Austin did a great job developing me with the technical aspects of my position and how to be a good offensive lineman. One of my favorite things about him is that he is really good at teaching the fundamentals.”
Although there have been a lot of significant coaching changes since Mayes came to Clemson in January 2020, he still feels right at home with his current coaches, including Offensive Coordinator Garrett Riley. The new hire excited not only Clemson fans, but the players as well.
“Coach Riley has a lot of swag. He is a smooth operator. He is always cool, never panics and calls great plays.”
Mayes proved himself during the 2022 season, as he stepped up when fellow offensive lineman Marcus Tate suffered a season-ending injury versus Miami (Fla.).
“It was huge for me to get to play more even though I hated to see what happened to Marcus. During the Florida State game last season, I got in on more rotations and proved myself. We have five guys, but we also have a sixth one.”
As a part of the offensive line unit, Mayes feels the love, as there is a lot of camaraderie among the group.
“We are a really tight group, and we are really special. We have a lot of talented players and some hilarious guys. It is always fun and I never have a bad time. There is great energy and great vibes.”
The health science major has taken full advantage of what Clemson has to offer, as he completed internships with Adobe and Cisco as a part of the P.A.W. Journey program. P.A.W. is an acronym for “Passionate About Winning,” and Mayes is very passionate about winning on and off the field, as he is an ambassador for the program.
“You are helping your team in more ways than just on the field.”
Mayes has taken great honor and pride as a P.A.W. Journey ambassador since he was selected in the fall of 2021.
“It shows that you are a leader on this team and you can be trusted. It is a great honor. You get to help your team in more ways than just on the field. P.A.W. Journey helps you grow as a man outside of football.”
As Mayes continues his fourth year as a Tiger, he takes motivation from former Tigers to serve as a leader to the next generation of student-athletes who are starting their careers at Clemson. Mayes knows how intimidating and challenging it is to join a prestigious program like Clemson.
“I want to work on bringing the younger guys up, showing them how we work and what it takes to win.”
When asked about his favorite memory as a Tiger, his immediate answer was the 2022 ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, as Clemson dominated his childhood team.
“I started that game against UNC, which was my hometown team. It was a special moment. I remember getting a picture while holding the trophy and taking it all in.”
His love and appreciation for Clemson has not been overlooked. He truly understands what it means to be a Tiger.
“You have to put it all out there. There have been a lot of people before you, with you right now and in the future, that will represent the Tiger Paw. The Paw depends on us right now to represent Clemson the right way.”